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The hitch-hiking effect of a favourable gene

  • John Maynard Smith (a1) and John Haigh (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 April 2009

When a selectively favourable gene substitution occurs in a population, changes in gene frequencies will occur at closely linked loci. In the case of a neutral polymorphism, average heterozygosity will be reduced to an extent which varies with distance from the substituted locus. The aggregate effect of substitution on neutral polymorphism is estimated; in populations of total size 106 or more (and perhaps of 104 or more), this effect will be more important than that of random fixation. This may explain why the extent of polymorphism in natural populations does not vary as much as one would expect from a consideration of the equilibrium between mutation and random fixation in populations of different sizes. For a selectively maintained polymorphism at a linked locus, this process will only be important in the long run if it leads to complete fixation. If the selective coefficients at the linked locus are small compared to those at the substituted locus, it is shown that the probability of complete fixation at the linked locus is approximately exp (− Nc), where c is the recombinant fraction and N the population size. It follows that in a large population a selective substitution can occur in a cistron without eliminating a selectively maintained polymorphism in the same cistron.

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R. E. Dickerson (1971). The structure of cytochrome c and the rates of molecular evolution. Journal of Molecular Evolution 1, 2645.

W. J. Ewens (1969). Population Genetics. London: Methuen.

J. Felsenstein (1971). On the biological significance of the cost of gene substitutions. American Naturalist 105, 111.

J. B. S. Haldane (1957). The cost of natural selection. Journal of Genetics 55, 511522.

M. Kimura (1964). Diffusion models in population genetics. Journal of Applied Probability 1, 177232.

K. I. Kojima & H. E. Scheffer (1967). Survival process of linked mutant genes. Evolution 21, 518531.

J. Maynard Smith (1968). ‘Haldane'dilemma’ and the rate of evolution. Nature 219, 11141116.

J. A. Sved (1968). Possible rates of gene substitution in evolution. American Naturalist 102, 283292.

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