What drives the evolution of conditiondependent recombination in diploids? Some insights from simulation modelling

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While the evolutionary advantages of non-zero recombination rates have prompted diverse theoretical explanations, the evolution of essential recombination features remains underexplored. We focused on one such feature, the condition dependence of recombination, viewed as the variation in withingeneration sensitivity of recombination to external (environment) and/or internal (genotype) conditions. Limited empirical evidence for its existence comes mainly from diploids, whereas theoretical models show that it only easily evolves in haploids. The evolution of condition-dependent recombination can be explained by its advantage for the selected system (indirect effect), or by benefits to modifier alleles, ensuring this strategy regardless of effects on the selected system (direct effect). We considered infinite panmictic populations of diploids exposed to a cyclical two-state environment. Each organism had three selected loci. Examining allele dynamics at a fourth, selectively neutral recombination modifier locus, we frequently observed that a modifier allele conferring condition-dependent recombination between the selected loci displaced the allele conferring the optimal constant recombination rate. Our simulations also confirm the results of theoretical studies showing that condition-dependent recombination cannot evolve in diploids on the basis of direct fitness-dependent effects alone. Therefore, the evolution of condition-dependent recombination in diploids can be driven by indirect effects alone, i.e. by modifier effects on the selected system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20160460
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1736
StatePublished - 19 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors.


  • Condition dependence
  • Diploid selection
  • Fluctuating selection
  • Recombination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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