Selection for plastic, pathogen-inducible recombination in a red queen model with diploid antagonists

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Antagonistic interactions and co-evolution between a host and its parasite are known to cause oscillations in the population genetic structure of both species (Red Queen dynamics). Potentially, such oscillations may select for increased sex and recombination in the host, although theoretical models suggest that this happens under rather restricted values of selection intensity, epis-tasis, and other parameters. Here, we explore a model in which the diploid parasite succeeds to infect the diploid host only if their phenotypes at the interaction-mediating loci match. Whenever regular oscillations emerge in this system, we test whether plastic, pathogen-inducible recombination in the host can be favored over the optimal constant recombination. Two forms of the host recombination dependence on the parasite pressure were considered: either proportionally to the risk of infection (prevention strategy) or upon the fact of infection (remediation strategy). We show that both forms of plastic recombination can be favored, although relatively infrequently (up to 11% of all regimes with regular oscillations, and up to 20% of regimes with obligate parasitism). This happens under either strong overall selection and high recombination rate in the host, or weak overall selection and low recombination rate in the host. In the latter case, the system’s dynamics are considerably more complex. The prevention strategy is favored more often than the remediation one. It is noteworthy that plastic recombination can be favored even when any constant recombination is rejected, making plasticity an evolutionary mechanism for the rescue of host recombination.

Original languageEnglish
Article number898
Issue number7
StatePublished - 16 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Diploid selection
  • Host-parasite co-evolution
  • Matching-phenotype interaction
  • Modifier model
  • Recombination plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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