When an advantageous mutation is fixed in a population by selection, a closely linked selectively neutral or mildly detrimental mutation may 'hitchhike' to fixation along with it. It has been suggested that hitchhiking might increase the rate of molecular evolution. Computer simulations and a mathematical argument show that complete linkage to either advantageous or deleterious mutations does not affect the substitution of selectively neutral mutations. However, the simulations show that linkage to selected background mutations decreases the rate of fixation of advantageous mutations and increases the rate of fixation of detrimental mutations. This is true whether the linked background mutations are advantageous or detrimental, and it verifies and extends previous observations that linkage tends to reduce the effects of selection on evolution. These results can be interpreted in terms of the Hill-Robertson effect: a locus linked to another locus under selection experiences a reduction in effective population size. The interpretation of differences in evolutionary rates between different genomes or different regions of a genome may be confounded by the effects of strong linkage and selection. Recombination is expected to reduce the overall rate of molecular evolution while enhancing the rate of adaptive evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6414-6418
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
StatePublished - 1988

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