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Genetics. Dec 2003; 165(4): 2181–2192.
PMCID: PMC1462917

The genetics of adaptation: the roles of pleiotropy, stabilizing selection and drift in shaping the distribution of bidirectional fixed mutational effects.


Pleiotropy allows for the deterministic fixation of bidirectional mutations: mutations with effects both in the direction of selection and opposite to selection for the same character. Mutations with deleterious effects on some characters can fix because of beneficial effects on other characters. This study analytically quantifies the expected frequency of mutations that fix with negative and positive effects on a character and the average size of a fixed effect on a character when a mutation pleiotropically affects from very few to many characters. The analysis allows for mutational distributions that vary in shape and provides a framework that would allow for varying the frequency at which mutations arise with deleterious and positive effects on characters. The results show that a large fraction of fixed mutations will have deleterious pleiotropic effects even when mutation affects as little as two characters and only directional selection is occurring, and, not surprisingly, as the degree of pleiotropy increases the frequency of fixed deleterious effects increases. As a point of comparison, we show how stabilizing selection and random genetic drift affect the bidirectional distribution of fixed mutational effects. The results are then applied to QTL studies that seek to find loci that contribute to phenotypic differences between populations or species. It is shown that QTL studies are biased against detecting chromosome regions that have deleterious pleiotropic effects on characters.

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Selected References

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