Detecting Natural Selection (Introduction)
This is the first of multiple postings I plan to write about detecting natural selection using molecular data (ie, DNA sequences). A lot of news releases in the popular press recently have dealt with genes under selection in humans. Most people probably don't understand what it means for a gene to be under selection and how researchers detect selection; I often throw around terms like “signature of selection”. These posts will explain some of the basic concepts in molecular evolution and the theory behind how selection is detected. They will be geared toward a scientifically literate reader, and I will do my best to explain the basics of molecular biology and genetics before getting into the nitty gritty. If you can read and understand PZ Myers, you should be in good shape. If John Hawks or Gene Expression are more your taste, this information will probably be old hat.
Throughout these posts, I will address the following:
- The organization of the genome
- Simple comparative methods for detecting selection
- More complex comparative methods
- Nucleotide variation in populations
- Non-neutral patterns of sequence polymorphism
This is by no means a table of contents, as I have yet to write any of these entries. This will be a sort of dynamic primer of molecular evolution – the next topic will be determined by previous postings.
Check back soon for the first post in this series: “The Organization of the Genome”.