Genetic linkage and natural selection

N. H. Barton

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review


The prevalence of recombination in eukaryotes poses one of the most puzzling questions in biology. The most compelling general explanation is that recombination facilitates selection by breaking down the negative associations generated by random drift (i.e. Hill-Robertson interference, HRI). I classify the effects of HRI owing to: deleterious mutation, balancing selection and selective sweeps on: neutral diversity, rates of adaptation and the mutation load. These effects are mediated primarily by the density of deleterious mutations and of selective sweeps. Sequence polymorphism and divergence suggest that these rates may be high enough to cause significant interference even in genomic regions of high recombination. However, neither seems able to generate enough variance in fitness to select strongly for high rates of recombination. It is plausible that spatial and temporal fluctuations in selection generate much more fitness variance, and hence selection for recombination, than can be explained by uniformly deleterious mutations or species-wide selective sweeps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2559-2569
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1552
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2010


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