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Theor Popul Biol. 2011 Dec;80(4):317-22. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2011.08.004. Epub 2011 Aug 24.

The consequences of rare sexual reproduction by means of selfing in an otherwise clonally reproducing species.

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  • 1Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


Clonal reproduction of diploids leads to an increase in heterozygosity over time. A single round of selfing will then create new homozygotic genotypes. Given the same allele frequencies, heritable genetic variation is larger when there are more extreme, i.e. homozygotic genotypes. So after a long clonal expansion, one round of selfing increases heritable genetic variation, but any fully or partially recessive deleterious alleles simultaneously impose a fitness cost. Here we calculate that the cost of selfing in the yeast Saccharomyces is experienced only by a minority of zygotes. This allows a round of selfing to act as an evolutionary capacitor to unlock genetic variation previously found in a cryptic heterozygous form. We calculate the evolutionary consequences rather than the evolutionary causes of sex. We explore a range of parameter values describing sexual frequencies, focusing especially on the parameter values known for wild Saccharomyces. Our results are largely robust to many other parameter value choices, so long as meiosis is rare relative to the strength of selection on heterozygotes. Results may also be limited to organisms with a small number of genes. We therefore expect the same phenomenon in some other species with similar reproductive strategies.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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