An Evolutionary Genetic Framework for Heritable Disorders

Abstract

Natural selection is expected to drive the frequencies of heritable, fitness‐harming states to very low levels, yet many heritable disorders – and especially mental disorder – are common in the human population. These two statements are sometimes interpreted to imply that disorders have not been under natural selection, but this need not be the case. Evolutionary genetics provides three broad classes of models, none of them mutually exclusive, for understanding why disorder risk alleles have persisted in the human population despite natural selection.

Keywords: mental disorders; genetics; evolution; mutation‐selection; balancing‐selection; schizophrenia

References

Allison AC (1954) Notes on sickle‐cell polymorphism. Annals of Human Genetics 19: 39–51.

Azevedo L, Suriano G, van Asch B, Harding RM and Amorim A (2006) Epistatic interactions: how strong in disease and evolution? Trends in Genetics 22: 581–585.

Bailey A, Phillips W and Rutter M (1996) Autism: towards an integration of clinical, genetic, neuropsychological and neurobiological perspectives. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 26: 557–567.

Bamshad M and Wooding SP (2003) Signatures of natural selection in the human genome. Nature Reviews. Genetics 4: 99–111.

Bürger R (2000) The Mathematical Theory of Selection, Recombination, and Mutation. West Sussex, UK: Wiley.

Crespi B, Summers K and Dorus S (2007) Adaptive evolution of genes underlying schizophrenia. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B 274: 2801–2810.

Fay JC, Wyckoff GJ and Wu C (2001) Positive and negative selection on the human genome. Genetics 158: 1227–1234.

Gangestad SW and Yeo RW (1997) Behavioral genetic variation, adaptation and maladaptation: an evolutionary perspective. Trends in Cognitive Science 1: 103–108.

García‐Dorado A, Caballero A and Crow JF (2003) On the persistence and pervasiveness of a new mutation. Evolution 57: 2644–2646.

Hedrick PW (1999) Antagonstic pleitropy and genetic polymorphism: a perspective. Heredity 82: 126–132.

Houle D (1992) Comparing evolvability and variability of quantitative traits. Genetics 130: 195–205.

Houle D (1998) How should we explain variation in the genetic variance of traits? Genetica 102: 241–253.

Keller MC and Miller G (2006) Resolving the paradox of common, harmful, heritable mental disorders: which evolutionary genetic models work best? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29: 385–452.

Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin L and Walters EE (2005) Lifetime prevalence and age‐of‐onset distributions of DSM‐IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry 62: 593–602.

Mealey L (1995) The sociobiology of sociopathy: an integrated evolutionary model. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 18: 523–599.

Nettle D (2006) Reconciling the mutation‐selection balance model with the schizotypy‐creativity connection. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29: 418.

Nettle D and Clegg H (2006) Schizotypy, creativity and mating success in humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 273: 611–615.

Plomin R and McGuffin P (2003) Psychopathology in the postgenomic era. Annual Review of Psychology 54: 205–228.

Vogel F and Motulsky AG (1997) Human Genetics. Berlin: Springer.

Williams GC (1957) Pleiotropy, natural selection and the evolution of senescence. Evolution 11: 398–411.

Wright AF, Charlesworth B, Rudan I, Carothers A and Campbell H (2003) A polygenic basis for late‐onset disease. Trends in Genetics 19: 97–106.

Yeo RW, Gangestad SW, Edgar C and Thoma R (1999) The evolutionoary genetic underpinnings of schizophrenia: the developmental instability model. Schizophrenia Research 39: 197–206.

Further Reading

Barton NH and Keightley PD (2002) Understanding quantitative genetic variation. Nature Reviews. Genetics 3: 11–21.

Keller MC and Nesse RM (2006) The evolutionary significance of depressive symptoms: different adverse situations lead to different depressive symptoms patterns. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 91: 316–330.

Nesse RM and Williams GC (1994) Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine. New York: Times Books.

Nettle D (2001) Strong Imagination: Madness, Creativity and Human Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wakefield JC (1992) The concept of mental disorder: On the boundary between biological facts and social values. American Psychologist 47: 373–388.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Keller, Matthew C(Jul 2008) An Evolutionary Genetic Framework for Heritable Disorders. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0020809]