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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Jul 22;100(15):8793-8. Epub 2003 Jul 11.

A two-locus gene conversion model with selection and its application to the human RHCE and RHD genes.

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  • 1Human Genetics Center, School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


A two-locus gene conversion model with selection is developed. Under the joint action of selection, mutation, gene conversion, recombination, and random genetic drift, approximate formulas for the expectations of the moments of allele frequencies and the expected amounts of variation within and between two loci are obtained by a diffusion method assuming relatively strong selection. It is shown that the pattern of allelic variation is mainly determined by the balance between gene conversion and selection, because these two mechanisms act in opposite directions. As an application of the theoretical results, the human RHCE and RHD genes are considered. The very high level of amino acid divergence between the two genes is observed only in a short region around exon 7. It is known that exon 7 encodes amino acids that characterize the difference between the RHCE and RHD antigens. The observed pattern of DNA variation in this region is consistent with the selection model developed in this article, suggesting that strong selection might be working to maintain the RHCE/RHD antigen variation in the two-locus system. The selection intensity is estimated on the basis of the theoretical result.

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