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Genetics. 1997 Oct;147(2):879-906.

The evolution of recombination: removing the limits to natural selection.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. otto@zoology.ubc.ca


One of the oldest hypotheses for the advantage of recombination is that recombination allows beneficial mutations that arise in different individuals to be placed together on the same chromosome. Unless recombination occurs, one of the beneficial alleles is doomed to extinction, slowing the rate at which adaptive mutations are incorporated within a population. We model the effects of a modifier of recombination on the fixation probability of beneficial mutations when beneficial alleles are segregating at other loci. We find that modifier alleles that increase recombination do increase the fixation probability of beneficial mutants and subsequently hitchhike along as the mutants rise in frequency. The strength of selection favoring a modifier that increases recombination is proportional to lambda(2)S delta r/r when linkage is tight and lambda(2)S3 delta r/N when linkage is loose, where lambda is the beneficial mutation rate per genome per generation throughout a population of size N, S is the average mutant effect, r is the average recombination rate, and delta r is the amount that recombination is modified. We conclude that selection for recombination will be substantial only if there is tight linkage within the genome or if many loci are subject to directional selection as during periods of rapid evolutionary change.

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