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Keywords:

  • bottleneck;
  • genetic drift;
  • heritable variance

Abstract

The evolutionary effects of epistasis have been primarily explored analytically and most empirical studies have utilized yeast, viral and bacterial populations. Empirical analyses in multi-cellular organisms are rare because of experimental constraints. Here, we report the results of a genome-wide scan for two-way epistasis in 16 traits related to body size and composition in F2 mice from the LG/J by SM/J intercross. We analyze two-locus genotypic values at quantitative trait loci (QTL), which provides an especially detailed view of epistatic architectures, to evaluate their predicted evolutionary consequences via Monte Carlo simulations. Epistatic profiles vary, but all traits show complicated genetic architectures which are largely hidden in single locus QTL scans. On average, detected epistatic effects are comparable in size to marginal effects. Simulations demonstrate an expected preservation, and often inflation, of heritable variance across several generations of small effective population size for many identified epistatic pairs over a range of starting allele frequencies.