Hitchhiking effect of a beneficial mutation spreading in a subdivided population

Yuseob Kim, Takahiro Maruki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


A central problem in population genetics is to detect and analyze positive natural selection by which beneficial mutations are driven to fixation. The hitchhiking effect of a rapidly spreading beneficial mutation, which results in local removal of standing genetic variation, allows such an analysis using DNA sequence polymorphism. However, the current mathematical theory that predicts the pattern of genetic hitchhiking relies on the assumption that a beneficial mutation increases to a high frequency in a single randommating population, which is certainly violated in reality. Individuals in natural populations are distributed over a geographic space. The spread of a beneficial allele can be delayed by limited migration of individuals over the space and its hitchhiking effect can also be affected. To study this effect of geographic structure on genetic hitchhiking, we analyze a simple model of directional selection in a subdivided population. In contrast to previous studies on hitchhiking in subdivided populations, we mainly investigate the range of sufficiently high migration rates that would homogenize genetic variation at neutral loci. We provide a heuristic mathematical analysis that describes how the genealogical structure at a neutral locus linked to the locus under selection is expected to change in a population divided into two demes. Our results indicate that the overall strength of genetic hitchhiking-the degree to which expected heterozygosity decreases-is diminished by population subdivision, mainly because opportunity for the breakdown of hitchhiking by recombination increases as the spread of the beneficial mutation across demes is delayed when migration rate is much smaller than the strength of selection. Furthermore, the amount of genetic variation after a selective sweep is expected to be unequal over demes: a greater reduction in expected heterozygosity occurs in the subpopulation from which the beneficial mutation originates than in its neighboring subpopulations. This raises a possibility of detecting a "hidden" geographic structure of population by carefully analyzing the pattern of a selective sweep.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-226
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2011


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