Epistasis between deleterious mutations and the evolution of recombination

Trends Ecol Evol. 2007 Jun;22(6):308-15. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2007.02.014. Epub 2007 Mar 6.


Epistasis and the evolution of recombination are closely intertwined: epistasis generates linkage disequilibria (i.e. statistical associations between alleles), whereas recombination breaks them up. The mutational deterministic hypothesis (MDH) states that high recombination rates are maintained because the breaking up of linkage disequilibria generated by negative epistasis enables more efficient purging of deleterious mutations. However, recent theoretical and experimental work challenges the MDH. Experimental evidence suggests that negative epistasis, required by the MDH, is relatively uncommon. On the theoretical side, population genetic models suggest that, compared with the combined effects of drift and selection, epistasis generates a negligible amount of linkage disequilibria. Here, we assess these criticisms and discuss to what extent they invalidate the MDH as an explanation for the evolution of recombination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Epistasis, Genetic*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation, Missense*
  • Recombination, Genetic*