On epistasis: why it is unimportant in polygenic directional selection

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2010 Apr 27;365(1544):1241-4. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2009.0275.


There is a difference in viewpoint of developmental and evo-devo geneticists versus breeders and students of quantitative evolution. The former are interested in understanding the developmental process; the emphasis is on identifying genes and studying their action and interaction. Typically, the genes have individually large effects and usually show substantial dominance and epistasis. The latter group are interested in quantitative phenotypes rather than individual genes. Quantitative traits are typically determined by many genes, usually with little dominance or epistasis. Furthermore, epistatic variance has minimum effect, since the selected population soon arrives at a state in which the rate of change is given by the additive variance or covariance. Thus, the breeder's custom of ignoring epistasis usually gives a more accurate prediction than if epistatic variance were included in the formulae.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epistasis, Genetic*
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Quantitative Trait Loci
  • Selection, Genetic*