Homologous recombination is an important operator in the evolution of biological organisms. However, there is still no clear, generally accepted understanding of why it exists and under what circumstances it is useful. In this paper we consider its utility in the context of an infinite population haploid model with selection and homologous recombination. We define utility in terms of two metrics - the increase in frequency of fit genotypes, and the increase in average population fitness, relative to those associated with selection only. Explicitly, we exhaustively explore the eight-dimensional parameter space of a two-locus two-allele system, showing, as a function of the landscape and the initial population, that recombination is beneficial in terms of our metrics in two distinct regimes: a landscape independent regime - the "search" regime - where recombination aids in the search for a fit genotype that is absent or at low frequency in the population; and the "modular" regime, associated with quasi-additive fitness landscapes with low epistasis, where recombination allows for the juxtaposition of fit "modules" or Building Blocks. Thus, we conclude that the ubiquity and utility of recombination is intimately associated with the existence of modularity in biological fitness landscapes.
Is modularity the reason why recombination is so ubiquitous?
Manuel Beltrán del Río, Christopher R. Stephens, David A. Rosenblueth