The nk Model and Population Genetics

Welch JJ & Waxman D

(2005) J Theor Biol 234, 329-340.

The nk model of fitness interactions is examined. This model has been used by previous authors to investigate the effects of fitness epistasis on substitution dynamics in molecular evolution, and to make broader claims about the importance of epistasis. To examine these claims, an infinite-allele approximation is introduced. In this limit, it is shown that the nk model is, at an appropriate level of description, formally identical to the non-epistatic House-of-Cards model; a well-studied model in theoretical population genetics. It is further shown that in many parameter regimes, the analytical results obtained from this infinite-allele approximation are very close to results from the full nk model (with a finite number of alleles per locus). The findings presented shed light on a number of previous results.

Andrew Rambaut, 2007