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Genetics. 2017 Aug;206(4):2105-2117. doi: 10.1534/genetics.116.199190. Epub 2017 May 26.

Distributions of Mutational Effects and the Estimation of Directional Selection in Divergent Lineages of Arabidopsis thaliana.

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Department of Biostatistics, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut 06510.
Department of Biology, College of Charleston, South Carolina 29424.
Department of Biology and Microbiology, South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota 57007.
Institute of Fundamental Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand 4442.
Division of Biology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506.
Department of Biostatistics, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut 06510
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520.
Program in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06511.


Mutations are crucial to evolution, providing the ultimate source of variation on which natural selection acts. Due to their key role, the distribution of mutational effects on quantitative traits is a key component to any inference regarding historical selection on phenotypic traits. In this paper, we expand on a previously developed test for selection that could be conducted assuming a Gaussian mutation effect distribution by developing approaches to also incorporate any of a family of heavy-tailed Laplace distributions of mutational effects. We apply the test to detect directional natural selection on five traits along the divergence of Columbia and Landsberg lineages of Arabidopsis thaliana, constituting the first test for natural selection in any organism using quantitative trait locus and mutation accumulation data to quantify the intensity of directional selection on a phenotypic trait. We demonstrate that the results of the test for selection can depend on the mutation effect distribution specified. Using the distributions exhibiting the best fit to mutation accumulation data, we infer that natural directional selection caused divergence in the rosette diameter and trichome density traits of the Columbia and Landsberg lineages.


mutation accumulation; neutrality; phenotype; statistical tests

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