Discoveries of mutations conferring resistance to infectious diseases have led to increased interest in the evolutionary dynamics of disease resistance. Several recent papers have estimated the historical strength of selection for mutations conferring disease resistance. These studies are based on simple population genetic models that do not take account of factors such as spatial and family structure. Such factors may have a substantial impact on the strength of natural selection through inclusive fitness effects. That is, people have a strong tendency to live with relatives and therefore have a high probability of transmitting infectious diseases to them. Thus, an allele that protects an individual against disease infection also protects that individual's family members. Because some of these family members are likely to also be carrying the allele, selection for that allele is magnified by family structure. In this paper, I use mathematical modeling techniques to explore the impact of such kin selection on the strength of selection for infectious disease resistance alleles. I show that if the resistance allele has the same proportional effect on both within- and between-family transmission, then the impact of kin selection is relatively minor. Selection coefficients are increased by 5–35%, with a greater benefit for weaker alleles. The reason is that an individual with a strong resistance allele does not need much protection from infection by family members and thus does not benefit much from their alleles. The effect of kin selection can be dramatic, however, if the resistance allele has a larger effect on between-family transmission than within-family transmission (which can occur if between-family infection rates are much smaller than within-family rates), increasing selection coefficients by as much as two- to threefold. These results show conditions when it is important to consider family structure in estimates of the strength of selection for infectious disease resistance alleles.
Vol. 61 • No. 6
Vol. 61 • No. 6