Selective Strolls: Fixation and Extinction in Diploids Are Slower for Weakly Selected Mutations Than for Neutral Ones

Genetics. 2015 Dec;201(4):1581-9. doi: 10.1534/genetics.115.178160. Epub 2015 Oct 23.


In finite populations, an allele disappears or reaches fixation due to two main forces, selection and drift. Selection is generally thought to accelerate the process: a selected mutation will reach fixation faster than a neutral one, and a disadvantageous one will quickly disappear from the population. We show that even in simple diploid populations, this is often not true. Dominance and recessivity unexpectedly slow down the evolutionary process for weakly selected alleles. In particular, slightly advantageous dominant and mildly deleterious recessive mutations reach fixation slightly more slowly than neutral ones (at most 5%). This phenomenon determines genetic signatures opposite to those expected under strong selection, such as increased instead of decreased genetic diversity around the selected site. Furthermore, we characterize a new phenomenon: mildly deleterious recessive alleles, thought to represent a wide fraction of newly arising mutations, on average survive in a population slightly longer than neutral ones, before getting lost. Consequently, these mutations are on average slightly older than neutral ones, in contrast with previous expectations. Furthermore, they slightly increase the amount of weakly deleterious polymorphisms, as a consequence of the longer unconditional sojourn times compared to neutral mutations.

Keywords: diffusion approximation; dominance; recessive mutations; weak selection.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Diploidy*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Genes, Recessive
  • Genetic Variation
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation*
  • Selection, Genetic*