Linkage and the limits to natural selection

Genetics. 1995 Jun;140(2):821-41. doi: 10.1093/genetics/140.2.821.


The probability of fixation of a favorable mutation is reduced if selection at other loci causes inherited variation in fitness. A general method for calculating the fixation probability of an allele that can find itself in a variety of genetic backgrounds is applied to find the effect of substitutions, fluctuating polymorphisms, and deleterious mutations in a large population. With loose linkage, r, the effects depend on the additive genetic variance in relative fitness, var(W), and act by reducing effective population size by (N/Ne) = 1 + var(W)/2r2. However, tightly linked loci can have a substantial effect not predictable from Ne. Linked deleterious mutations reduce the fixation probability of weakly favored alleles by exp (-2U/R), where U is the total mutation rate and R is the map length in Morgans. Substitutions can cause a greater reduction: an allele with advantage s < scrit = (pi 2/6) loge (S/s) [var(W)/R] is very unlikely to be fixed. (S is the advantage of the substitution impeding fixation.) Fluctuating polymorphisms at many (n) linked loci can also have a substantial effect, reducing fixation probability by exp [square root of 2Kn var(W)/R] [K = -1/E((u-u)2/uv) depending on the frequencies (u,v) at the selected polymorphisms]. Hitchhiking due to all three kinds of selection may substantially impede adaptation that depends on weakly favored alleles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Linkage*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Mutation
  • Selection, Genetic*