Non-equivalent loci and the distribution of mutant effects.

Welch JJ & Waxman D

(2002) Genetics 161, 897-904.

It has been observed repeatedly that the distribution of new mutations of a quantitative trait has a kurtosis (a statistical measure of the distribution's shape) that is systematically larger than that of a normal distribution. Here we suggest that rather than being a property of individual loci that control the trait, the enhanced kurtosis is highly likely to be an emergent property that arises directly from the loci being mutationally nonequivalent. We present a method of incorporating nonequivalent loci into quantitative genetic modeling and give an approximate relation between the kurtosis of the mutant distribution and the degree of mutational nonequivalence of loci. We go on to ask whether incorporating the experimentally observed kurtosis through nonequivalent loci, rather than at locus level, affects any biologically important conclusions of quantitative genetic modeling. Concentrating on the maintenance of quantitative genetic variation by mutation-selection balance, we conclude that typically nonequivalent loci yield a genetic variance that is of order 10% smaller than that obtained from the previous approaches. For large populations, when the kurtosis is large, the genetic variance may be 50% of the result of equivalent loci, with Gaussian distributions of mutant effects.

Andrew Rambaut, 2007