Overdominance interacts with linkage to determine the rate of adaptation to a new optimum

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Abstract

Overdominance, or a fitness advantage of a heterozygote over both homozygotes, can occur commonly with adaptation to a new optimum phenotype. We model how such overdominant polymorphisms can reduce the evolvability of diploid populations, uncovering a novel form of epistatic constraint on adaptation. The fitness load caused by overdominant polymorphisms can most readily be ameliorated by evolution at tightly linked loci; therefore, traits controlled by multiple loosely linked loci are predicted to be strongly constrained. The degree of constraint is also sensitive to the shape of the relationship between phenotype and fitness, and the constraint caused by overdominance can be strong enough to overcome the effects of clonal interference on the rate of adaptation for a trait. These results point to novel influences on evolvability that are specific to diploids and interact with genetic architecture, and they predict a source of stochastic variability in eukaryotic evolution experiments or cases of rapid evolution in nature.

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