Montgomery Slatkin


A mathematical model of the effects of interchromosomal biased gene conversion, mutation and natural selection on a multigene family is developed and analyzed. The model assumes two allelic states at each of n loci. The effects of genetic drift are ignored. The model is developed under the assumption of no recombination, but the analysis shows that, at equilibrium, there is no linkage disequilibrium, which implies that the conclusions are valid for arbitrary recombination among loci. At equilibrium, the balance between mutation, gene conversion and selection depends on the ratio of the mutation rates to the quantity [s + g(2α - 1)/n], where s is the increment or decrement in relative fitness with each additional copy of one of the alleles, g is the conversion rate, and α is a measure of the bias in favor of one of the alleles. When this quantity is large relative to the mutation rates, the allele that has the net advantage, combining the effects of selection and conversion, will be nearly fixed in the multigene family. A comparison of these results with those from a comparable model of intrachromosomal biased conversion shows that biased interchromosomal conversion leads to approximately the same equilibrium copy number as does intrachromosomal conversion of the same strength. Interchromosomal conversion is much more effective in causing the substitution of one allele by another. The relative frequencies of interchromosomal and intrachromosomal conversion is indicated by the extent of the linkage disequilibrium among the loci in a multigene family.

  • Received September 9, 1985.
  • Accepted November 11, 1985.