Non-linear selection response in Drosophila: a strategy for testing the rare-alleles model of quantitative genetic variability

Genetica. 1997;99(1):59-66. doi: 10.1007/BF02259498.


Quantitative genetic theory predicts that variation due to rare alleles at many loci will generate a transient acceleration in the response to directional selection. We have tested this prediction by constructing experimental lines of Drosophila melanogaster that carry positively selected ethanol resistance alleles at low frequencies, and then subjecting the lines to directional selection for ethanol resistance. Approximately 468,000 files were subjected to artificial selection over 30 generations. The predicted non-linear selection responses were observed in all experimental lines and replicates, on three genetic backgrounds. In contrast, un-selected controls and lines carrying random alleles at low frequencies on the same genetic backgrounds exhibited linear selection responses. These results demonstrate that non-linearities due to rare alleles are detectable and repeatable, provided that experiments are done on a sufficiently large scale. The results suggest that it may be possible to test for rare-alleles as a component of naturally occurring genetic variation by careful examination of selection response curves.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / drug effects
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Drug Resistance
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Variation
  • Selection, Genetic


  • Ethanol