Although recent advances in genome biology have dramatically increased our understanding of the contribution of gene interactions to the development of complex phenotypes, we still lack general agreement on the process and mechanisms responsible for the evolution of epistatic systems. Even if genes in a species are indeed integrated into coadapted complexes of interacting components, simple additive evolution may eventually result in epistatic differentiation of populations. Consequently, the prevalence of epistatic gene action does not tell us anything about the role of epistatic selection in the history of population divergence. To elucidate the contribution of epistatic selection in the evolution of coadaptation, we investigate the fixation process of two mutations that interact synergistically to enhance fitness. We show by diffusion analysis and simulations that epistatic selection on cosegregating variants does not by itself promote the evolution of epistatic systems; rather, accumulation of neutral mutations may play a crucial role, creating an appropriate genetic milieu for adaptive evolution in the future generations.
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