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Evolution. 2009 Jul;63(7):1685-96. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2009.00670.x. Epub 2009 Feb 24.

Genes with social effects are expected to harbor more sequence variation within and between species.

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School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-4501, USA.


The equilibrium sequence diversity of genes within a population and the rate of sequence divergence between populations or species depends on a variety of factors, including expression pattern, mutation rate, nature of selection, random drift, and mating system. Here, we extend population genetic theory developed for maternal-effect genes to predict the equilibrium polymorphism within species and sequence divergence among species for genes with social effects on fitness. We show how the fitness effects of genes, mating system, and genetic system affect predicted gene polymorphism. We find that, because genes with indirect social effects on fitness effectively experience weaker selection, they are expected to harbor higher levels of polymorphism relative to genes with direct fitness effects. The relative increase in polymorphism is proportional to the inverse of the genetic relatedness between individuals expressing the gene and their social partners that experience the fitness effects of the gene. We find a similar pattern of more rapid divergence between populations or species for genes with indirect social effects relative to genes with direct effects. We focus our discussion on the social insects, organisms with diverse indirect genetic effects, mating and genetic systems, and we suggest specific examples for testing our predictions with emerging sociogenomic tools.

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