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Trends Ecol Evol. 2008 Jan;23(1):33-7.

Evolutionary potential of hidden genetic variation.

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  • 1Linnaeus Centre for Bioinformatics, Biomedical Centre, Box 598, Uppsala University, SE-751 24 Uppsala, Sweden.


The ability of a population to respond to natural or artificial selection pressures is determined by the genetic architecture of the selected trait. It is now widely acknowledged that a substantial part of genetic variability can be buffered or released as the result of complex genetic interactions. However, the impact of hidden genetic diversity on phenotypic evolution is still not clear. Here, we argue that a common term to describe the impact of hidden genetic variation on phenotypic change is needed and will help to provide new insights into the contribution of different components of genetic architectures to the evolvability of a character. We introduce the 'genetic charge' concept, to describe how the architecture of a trait can be 'charged' with potential for evolutionary change that can later be 'discharged' in response to selection.

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