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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Jan 5;96(1):168-72.

Self-incompatibility alleles from Physalis: implications for historical inference from balanced genetic polymorphisms.

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  • 1Biology Department, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717-0346, USA. arichman@montana.edu


Balanced genetic polymorphism has been proposed as a source from which to infer population history complementary to that of neutral genetic polymorphism, because genetic polymorphism maintained by balancing selection permits inferences about population size over much longer spans of time. However, empirical data for both S genes and major histocompatibility complex genes do not fit expectations of coalescent theory. Species-specific gene genealogies have longer terminal branches than expected, indicating an apparent slowdown in the origination of new alleles. Here, we present evidence that divergent S alleles were selectively maintained in Physalis cinerascens during a reduction in population size, generating longer terminal branches in the S gene genealogy relative to the congener Physalis crassifolia. Retention of divergent alleles during reduction in the number of alleles violates assumptions of the coalescent model used to estimate effective population size. Recent theoretical and empirical results are consistent with the proposition that nonrandom sorting is a general property of balanced genetic polymorphisms, suggesting that studies of balanced polymorphism that infer the absence of population bottlenecks may overestimate effective population size.

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