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Polygenic adaptation to an environmental shift: temporal dynamics of variation under Gaussian stabilizing selection and additive effects on a single trait

By Kevin R. Thornton

Posted 26 Dec 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/505750 (published DOI: 10.1534/genetics.119.302662)

Predictions about the effect of natural selection on patterns of linked neutral variation are largely based on models involving the rapid fixation of unconditionally beneficial mutations. However, when phenotypes adapt to a new optimum trait value, the strength of selection on individual mutations decreases as the population adapts. Here, I use explicit forward simulations of a single trait with additive-effect mutations adapting to an optimum shift. Detectable “hitch-hiking” patterns are only apparent if i. the optimum shifts are large with respect to equilibrium variation for the trait, ii. mutation rates to large-effect mutations are low, and iii., large-effect mutations rapidly increase in frequency and eventually reach fixation, which typically occurs after the population reaches the new optimum. For the parameters simulated here, partial sweeps do not appreciably affect patterns of linked variation, even when the mutations are strongly selected. The contribution of new mutations versus standing variation to fixation depends on the mutation rate affecting trait values. Given the fixation of a strongly-selected variant, patterns of hitch-hiking are similar on average for the two classes of sweeps because sweeps from standing variation involving large-effect mutations are rare when the optimum shifts. The distribution of effect sizes of new mutations has little effect on the time to reach the new optimum, but reducing the mutational variance increases the magnitude of hitch-hiking patterns. In general, populations reach the new optimum prior to the completion of any sweeps, and the times to fixation are longer for this model than for standard models of directional selection. The long fixation times are due to a combination of declining selection pressures during adaptation and the possibility of interference among weakly selected sites for traits with high mutation rates.

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