A numerical framework for genetic hitchhiking in populations of variable size

A numerical framework for genetic hitchhiking in populations of variable size


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Natural selection on beneficial or deleterious alleles results in an increase or decrease, respectively, of its frequency within the population. Due to chromosomal linkage, the dynamics of the selected site affect the genetic variation at nearby neutral loci in a process commonly referred to as genetic hitchhiking. Changes in population size, however, can yield patterns in genomic data that mimic the effects of selection. Accurately modeling these dynamics is thus crucial to understanding how selection and past population size changes impact observed patterns of genetic variation. Here, we model the evolution of haplotype frequencies with the Wright-Fisher diffusion to study the impact of selection on linked neutral variation. Explicit solutions are not known for the dynamics of this diffusion when selection and recombination act simultaneously. Thus, we present a method for numerically evaluating the Wright-Fisher diffusion dynamics of two linked loci separated by a certain recombination distance when selection is acting. We can account for arbitrary population size histories explicitly using this approach. A key step in the method is to express the moments of the associated transition density, or sampling probabilities, as solutions to ordinary differential equations. Numerically solving these differential equations relies on a novel accurate and numerically efficient technique to estimate higher order moments from lower order moments. We demonstrate how this numerical framework can be used to quantify the reduction and recovery of genetic diversity around a selected locus over time and elucidate distortions in the site-frequency-spectra of neutral variation linked to loci under selection in various demographic settings. The method can be readily extended to more general modes of selection and applied in likelihood frameworks to detect loci under selection and infer the strength of the selective pressure.

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genetic hitchhiking, variable population size, diffusion approximation


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A numerical framework for genetic hitchhiking in populations of variable size