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Genetics. 2008 Nov;180(3):1547-57. doi: 10.1534/genetics.108.088880. Epub 2008 Sep 14.

The generation and maintenance of genetic variation by frequency-dependent selection: constructing polymorphisms under the pairwise interaction model.

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  • 1Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, 9054.


Frequency-dependent selection remains the most commonly invoked heuristic explanation for the maintenance of genetic variation. For polymorphism to exist, new alleles must be both generated and maintained in the population. Here we use a construction approach to model frequency-dependent selection with mutation under the pairwise interaction model. The pairwise interaction model is a general model of frequency-dependent selection at the genotypic level. We find that frequency-dependent selection is able to generate a large number of alleles at a single locus. The construction process generates multiallelic polymorphisms with a wide range of allele-frequency distributions and genotypic fitness relationships. Levels of polymorphism and mean fitness are uncoupled, so constructed polymorphisms remain permanently invasible to new mutants; thus the model never settles down to an equilibrium state. Analysis of constructed fitness sets reveals signatures of heterozygote advantage and positive frequency dependence.

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