Genetical Research

Research Article

A general model for the evolution of recombination

N. H. Bartona1

a1 Division of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, King's Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK


A general representation of multilocus selection is extended to allow recombination to depend on genotype. The equations simplify if modifier alleles have small effects on recombination. The evolution of such modifiers only depends on how they alter recombination between the selected loci, and does not involve dominance in modifier effects. The net selection on modifiers can be found explicitly if epistasis is weak relative to recombination. This analysis shows that recombination can be favoured in two ways: because it impedes the response to epistasis which fluctuates in sign, or because it facilitates the response to directional selection. The first mechanism is implausible, because epistasis must change sign over periods of a few generations: faster or slower fluctuations favour reduced recombination. The second mechanism requires weak negative epistasis between favourable alleles, which may either be increasing, or held in check by mutation. The selection (si) on recombination modifiers depends on the reduction in additive variance of log (fitness) due to linkage disequilibria (υ1 < 0), and on non-additive variance in log (fitness) (V2, V3,.. epistasis between 2, 3.. loci). For unlinked loci and pairwise epistasis, si = − (υ1 + 4V2/3)δr, where δr is the average increase in recombination caused by the modifier. The approximations are checked against exact calculations for three loci, and against Charlesworth's analyses of mutation/selection balance (1990), and directional selection (1993). The analysis demonstrates a general relation between selection on recombination and observable components of fitness variation, which is open to experimental test.

(Received August 26 1994)

(Revised November 29 1994)