The divergence of a polygenic system subject to stabilizing selection, mutation and drift

Genet Res. 1989 Aug;54(1):59-77. doi: 10.1017/s0016672300028378.


Polygenic variation can be maintained by a balance between mutation and stabilizing selection. When the alleles responsible for variation are rare, many classes of equilibria may be stable. The rate at which drift causes shifts between equilibria is investigated by integrating the gene frequency distribution W2N II (pq)4N mu-1. This integral can be found exactly, by numerical integration, or can be approximated by assuming that the full distribution of allele frequencies is approximately Gaussian. These methods are checked against simulations. Over a wide range of population sizes, drift will keep the population near an equilibrium which minimizes the genetic variance and the deviation from the selective optimum. Shifts between equilibria in this class occur at an appreciable rate if the product of population size and selection on each locus is small (Ns alpha 2 less than 10). The Gaussian approximation is accurate even when the underlying distribution is strongly skewed. Reproductive isolation evolves as populations shift to new combinations of alleles: however, this process is slow, approaching the neutral rate (approximately mu) in small populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Gene Frequency*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation*
  • Phenotype
  • Selection, Genetic*