Genetic costs of domestication and improvement

Brook T. Moyers, Peter L. Morrell, John K. McKay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The “cost of domestication” hypothesis posits that the process of domesticating wild species can result in an increase in the number, frequency, and/or proportion of deleterious genetic variants that are fixed or segregating in the genomes of domesticated species. This cost may limit the efficacy of selection and thus reduce genetic gains in breeding programs for these species. Understanding when and how deleterious mutations accumulate can also provide insight into fundamental questions about the interplay of demography and selection. Here we describe the evolutionary processes that may contribute to deleterious variation accrued during domestication and improvement, and review the available evidence for “the cost of domestication” in animal and plant genomes. We identify gaps and explore opportunities in this emerging field, and finally offer suggestions for researchers and breeders interested in understanding or avoiding the consequences of an increased number or frequency of deleterious variants in domesticated species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-116
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Heredity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the US National Science Foundation (award numbers 1523752 to B.T.M.; and DBI 1339393 to P.L.M.).


  • Crops
  • Deleterious variants
  • Domesticated animals


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