The pattern of neutral molecular variation under the background selection model

Genetics. 1995 Dec;141(4):1619-32. doi: 10.1093/genetics/141.4.1619.


Stochastic simulations of the infinite sites model were used to study the behavior of genetic diversity at a neutral locus in a genomic region without recombination, but subject to selection against deleterious alleles maintained by recurrent mutation (background selection). In large populations, the effect of background selection on the number of segregating sites approaches the effect on nucleotide site diversity, i.e., the reduction in genetic variability caused by background selection resembles that caused by a simple reduction in effective population size. We examined, by coalescence-based methods, the power of several tests for the departure from neutral expectation of the frequency spectra of alleles in samples from randomly mating populations (Tajima's, Fu and Li's, and Watterson's tests). All of the tests have low power unless the selection against mutant alleles is extremely weak. In Drosophila, significant Tajima's tests are usually not obtained with empirical data sets from loci in genomic regions with restricted recombination frequencies and that exhibit low genetic diversity. This is consistent with the operation of background selection as opposed to selective sweeps. It remains to be decided whether background selection is sufficient to explain the observed extent of reduction in diversity in regions of restricted recombination.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Selection, Genetic*