The effect of linkage and population size on inbreeding depression due to mutational load.

Abstract

Using a stochastic model of a finite population in which there is mutation to partially recessive detrimental alleles at many loci, we study the effects of population size and linkage between the loci on the population mean fitness and inbreeding depression values. Although linkage between the selected loci decreases the amount of inbreeding depression, neither population size nor recombination rate have strong effects on these quantities, unless extremely small values are assumed. We also investigate how partial linkage between the loci that determine fitness affects the invasion of populations by alleles at a modifier locus that controls the selfing rate. In most of the cases studied, the direction of selection on modifiers was consistent with that found in our previous deterministic calculations. However, there was some evidence that linkage between the modifier locus and the selected loci makes outcrossing less likely to evolve; more losses of alleles promoting outcrossing occurred in runs with linkage than in runs with free recombination. We also studied the fate of neutral alleles introduced into populations carrying detrimental mutations. The times to loss of neutral alleles introduced at low frequency were shorter than those predicted for alleles in the absence of selected loci, taking into account the reduction of the effective population size due to inbreeding. Previous studies have been confined to outbreeding populations, and to alleles at frequencies close to one-half, and have found an effect in the opposite direction. It therefore appears that associations between neutral and selected loci may produce effects that differ according to the initial frequencies of the neutral alleles.

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