Statistical physics methods provide the exact solution to a long-standing problem of genetics

Areejit Samal 1, 2, 3 Olivier C. Martin 4

Physical Review Letters, American Physical Society, 2015, 114, pp.238101

Analytic and computational methods developed within statistical physics have found applications in numerous disciplines. In this letter, we use such methods to solve a long-standing problem in statistical genetics. The problem, posed by Haldane and Waddington [J.B.S. Haldane and C.H. Waddington, Genetics 16, 357-374 (1931)], concerns so-called recombinant inbred lines (RILs) produced by repeated inbreeding. Haldane and Waddington derived the probabilities of RILs when considering 2 and 3 genes but the case of 4 or more genes has remained elusive. Our solution uses two probabilistic frameworks relatively unknown outside of physics: Glauber's formula and self-consistent equations of the Schwinger-Dyson type. Surprisingly, this combination of statistical formalisms unveils the exact probabilities of RILs for any number of genes. Extensions of the framework may have applications in population genetics and beyond.

  • 1. The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics
  • 2. LPTMS - Laboratoire de Physique Théorique et Modèles Statistiques
  • 3. MPI-MIS - Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences
  • 4. GQE - Génétique Quantitative et Evolution (Génétique Végétale)