Rate of adaptive peak shifts with partial genetic robustness

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How adaptive evolution occurs with individually deleterious but jointly beneficial mutations has been one of the major problems in population genetics theory. Adaptation in this case is commonly described as a population's escape from a local peak to a higher peak on Sewall Wright's fitness landscape. Recent molecular genetic and computational studies have suggested that genetic robustness can facilitate such peak shifts. If phenotypic expressions of new mutations are suppressed under genetic robustness, mutations that are otherwise deleterious can accumulate in the population as neutral variants. When the robustness is perturbed by an environmental change or a major mutation, these variants become exposed to natural selection. It is argued that this process promotes adaptation because allelic combinations enriched under genetic robustness can then be positively selected. Here, I propose simple two- and three-locus models of adaptation with partial genetic robustness as suggested by recent studies. The waiting time until the fixation of an adaptive haplotype was observed in stochastic simulations and compared to the expectation without robustness. It is shown that peak shifts can be delayed or accelerated depending on the conditions of genetic robustness. The evolutionary significance of these processes is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1847-1856
Number of pages10
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2007


  • Adaptation
  • Epistatis
  • Genetic robustness
  • Peak shift


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