School of Mathematics

Joachim Krug

Recombination promotes mutational robustness on neutral fitness landscapes

Mutational robustness quantifies the effect of random mutations on fitness. From the point of view of fitness landscapes, robust genotypes form neutral networks of equal fitness.  Using deterministic population models it has been shown that selection favors genotypes inside such networks, which results in increased mutational robustness.  Here we demonstrate that this effect is massively enhanced by recombination.  Our results are based on a detailed analysis of mesa-shaped fitness landscapes and numerical simulations on percolation landscapes and an empirical landscape. We argue that the favorable effect of recombination on mutational robustness is a highly universal feature that may have played an important role in the emergence and maintenance of mechanisms of genetic exchange.