Polygenic adaptation: a unifying framework to understand positive selection

Nat Rev Genet. 2020 Dec;21(12):769-781. doi: 10.1038/s41576-020-0250-z. Epub 2020 Jun 29.


Most adaption processes have a polygenic genetic basis, but even with the recent explosive growth of genomic data we are still lacking a unified framework describing the dynamics of selected alleles. Building on recent theoretical and empirical work we introduce the concept of adaptive architecture, which extends the genetic architecture of an adaptive trait by factors influencing its adaptive potential and population genetic principles. Because adaptation can be typically achieved by many different combinations of adaptive alleles (redundancy), we describe how two characteristics - heterogeneity among loci and non-parallelism between replicated populations - are hallmarks for the characterization of polygenic adaptation in evolving populations. We discuss how this unified framework can be applied to natural and experimental populations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological*
  • Animals
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Multifactorial Inheritance
  • Selection, Genetic*