Exact solution of the multi-allelic diffusion model

Math Biosci. 2007 Sep;209(1):124-70. doi: 10.1016/j.mbs.2007.01.001. Epub 2007 Jan 12.


We give an exact solution to the Kolmogorov equation describing genetic drift for an arbitrary number of alleles at a given locus. This is achieved by finding a change of variable which makes the equation separable, and therefore reduces the problem with an arbitrary number of alleles to the solution of a set of equations that are essentially no more complicated than that found in the two-allele case. The same change of variable also renders the Kolmogorov equation with the effect of mutations added separable, as long as the mutation matrix has equal entries in each row. Thus, this case can also be solved exactly for an arbitrary number of alleles. The general solution, which is in the form of a probability distribution, is in agreement with the previously known results. Results are also given for a wide range of other quantities of interest, such as the probabilities of extinction of various numbers of alleles, mean times to these extinctions, and the means and variances of the allele frequencies. To aid dissemination, these results are presented in two stages: first of all they are given without derivations and too much mathematical detail, and then subsequently derivations and a more technical discussion are provided.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Genetic Drift*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Mutation