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PLoS Genet. 2008 Feb 29;4(2):e1000008. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000008.

Data and theory point to mainly additive genetic variance for complex traits.

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  • 1Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom. w.g.hill@ed.ac.uk

Abstract

The relative proportion of additive and non-additive variation for complex traits is important in evolutionary biology, medicine, and agriculture. We address a long-standing controversy and paradox about the contribution of non-additive genetic variation, namely that knowledge about biological pathways and gene networks imply that epistasis is important. Yet empirical data across a range of traits and species imply that most genetic variance is additive. We evaluate the evidence from empirical studies of genetic variance components and find that additive variance typically accounts for over half, and often close to 100%, of the total genetic variance. We present new theoretical results, based upon the distribution of allele frequencies under neutral and other population genetic models, that show why this is the case even if there are non-additive effects at the level of gene action. We conclude that interactions at the level of genes are not likely to generate much interaction at the level of variance.

PMID:
18454194
PMCID:
PMC2265475
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pgen.1000008
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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