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The effect of linkage on limits to artificial selection

  • W. G. Hill (a1) and Alan Robertson (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 April 2009

(i) A computer simulation study has been made of selection on two linked loci in small populations, where both loci were assumed to have additive effects on the character under selection with no interaction between loci. If N is the effective population size, i the intensity of selection in standard units, α and β measure the effects of the two loci on the character under selection as a proportion of the pheno-typic standard deviation and c is the crossover distance between them, it was shown that the selection process can be completely specified by Niα, Niβand Nc and the initial gene frequencies and linkage disequilibrium coefficient. It is then easily possible to generalize from computer runs at only one population size. All computer runs assumed an initial population at linkage equilibrium between the two loci. Analysis of the results was greatly simplified by considering the influence of segregation at the second locus on the chance of fixation at the first (defined as the proportion of replicate lines in which the favoured allele was eventually fixed).

(ii) The effects of linkage are sufficiently described by Nc. The relationship between chance of fixation at the limit and linkage distance (expressed as 2Nc/(2Nc + 1)) was linear in the majority of computer runs.

(iii) When gene frequency changes under independent segregation were small, linkage had no effect on the advance under selection. In general, segregation at the second locus had no detectable influence on the chance of fixation at the first if the gene effects at the second were less than one-half those at the first. With larger gene effects at the second locus, the chance of fixation passed through a minimum and then rose again. For two loci to have a mutual influence on one another, their effects on the character under selection should not differ by a factor of more than two.

(iv) Under conditions of suitable relative gene effects, the influence of segregation at the second locus was very dependent on the initial frequency of the desirable allele. The chance of fixation at the first, plotted against initial frequency of the desirable allele at the second, passed through a minimum when the chance of fixation at the second locus was about 0·8.

(v) A transformation was found which made the influence of segregation at the second locus on the chance of fixation at the first almost independent of initial gene frequency at the first and of gene effects at the first locus when these are small.

(vi) In the population of gametes at final fixation, linkage was not at equilibrium and there was an excess of repulsion gametes.

(vii) The results were extended to a consideration of the effect of linkage on the limits under artificial selection. Linkage proved only to be of importance when the two loci had roughly equal effects on the character under selection. The maximum effect on the advance under selection occurred when the chance of fixation at both of the loci was between 0·7 and 0·8. When the advance under selection is most sensitive to changes in recombination value, a doubling of the latter in no case increased the advance under selection by more than about 6%. The proportion selected to give maximum advance under individual selection (0·5 under independent segregation) was increased, but only very slightly, when linkage is important.

(viii) These phenomena could be satisfactorily accounted for in terms of the time scale of the selection process and the effective size of the population within which changes of gene frequency at the locus with smaller effect must take place.

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W. J. Ewens (1963). Numerical results and diffusion approximations in a genetic process. Biometrika, 50, 241249.

A. S. Fraser (1957). Simulation of genetic systems by automatic digital computers. I. Introduction. Aust. J. biol. Sci. 10, 484491.

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B. D. H. Latter (1965 a). The response to artificial selection due to autosomal genes of large effect. I. Changes in gene frequency at an additive locus. Aust. J. biol. Sci. 18, 585598.

B. D. H. Latter (1965 b). The response to artificial selection due to autosomal genes of large effect. II. The effects of linkage on limits to selection in finite populations. Aust. J. biol. Sci. 18, 10091023.

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A. Robertson (1960). A theory of limits in artificial selection. Proc. R. Soc. B, 153, 234249.

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