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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Dec 20;108(51):20666-71. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1114573108. Epub 2011 Dec 5.

Heterozygote advantage as a natural consequence of adaptation in diploids.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.

Abstract

Molecular adaptation is typically assumed to proceed by sequential fixation of beneficial mutations. In diploids, this picture presupposes that for most adaptive mutations, the homozygotes have a higher fitness than the heterozygotes. Here, we show that contrary to this expectation, a substantial proportion of adaptive mutations should display heterozygote advantage. This feature of adaptation in diploids emerges naturally from the primary importance of the fitness of heterozygotes for the invasion of new adaptive mutations. We formalize this result in the framework of Fisher's influential geometric model of adaptation. We find that in diploids, adaptation should often proceed through a succession of short-lived balanced states that maintain substantially higher levels of phenotypic and fitness variation in the population compared with classic adaptive walks. In fast-changing environments, this variation produces a diversity advantage that allows diploids to remain better adapted compared with haploids despite the disadvantage associated with the presence of unfit homozygotes. The short-lived balanced states arising during adaptive walks should be mostly invisible to current scans for long-term balancing selection. Instead, they should leave signatures of incomplete selective sweeps, which do appear to be common in many species. Our results also raise the possibility that balancing selection, as a natural consequence of frequent adaptation, might play a more prominent role among the forces maintaining genetic variation than is commonly recognized.

PMID:
22143780
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3251125
Free PMC Article

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