Allelic diversity and its implications for the rate of adaptation.
ABSTRACT: Genetic variation is usually estimated empirically from statistics based on population gene frequencies, but alternative statistics based on allelic diversity (number of allelic types) can provide complementary information. There is a lack of knowledge, however, on the evolutionary implications attached to allelic-diversity measures, particularly in structured populations. In this article we simulated multiple scenarios of single and structured populations in which a quantitative trait subject to stabilizing selection is adapted to different fitness optima. By forcing a global change in the optima we evaluated which diversity variables are more strongly correlated with both short- and long-term adaptation to the new optima. We found that quantitative genetic variance components for the trait and gene-frequency-diversity measures are generally more strongly correlated with short-term response to selection, whereas allelic-diversity measures are more correlated with long-term and total response to selection. Thus, allelic-diversity variables are better predictors of long-term adaptation than gene-frequency variables. This observation is also extended to unlinked neutral markers as a result of the information they convey on the demographic population history. Diffusion approximations for the allelic-diversity measures in a finite island model under the infinite-allele neutral mutation model are also provided.
Project description:In the absence of selection, the structure of equilibrium allelic diversity is described by the elegant sampling formula of Ewens. This formula has helped to shape our expectations of empirical patterns of molecular variation. Along with coalescent theory, it provides statistical techniques for rejecting the null model of neutrality. However, we still do not fully understand the statistics of the allelic diversity expected in the presence of natural selection. Earlier work has described the effects of strongly deleterious mutations linked to many neutral sites, and allelic variation in models where offspring fitness is unrelated to parental fitness, but it has proven difficult to understand allelic diversity in the presence of purifying selection at many linked sites. Here, we study the population genetics of infinitely many perfectly linked sites, some neutral and some deleterious. Our approach is based on studying the lineage structure within each class of individuals of similar fitness in the deleterious mutation-selection balance. Consistent with previous observations, we find that for moderate and weak selection pressures, the patterns of allelic diversity cannot be described by a neutral model for any choice of the effective population site. We compute precisely how purifying selection at many linked sites distorts the patterns of allelic diversity, by developing expressions for the likelihood of any configuration of allelic types in a sample analogous to the Ewens sampling formula.
Project description:One of the main objectives of conservation programs is the maintenance of genetic diversity because this provides the adaptive potential of populations to face new environmental challenges. Genetic diversity is generally assessed by means of neutral molecular markers, and it is usually quantified by the expected heterozygosity under Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and the number of alleles per locus or allelic diversity. These two measures of genetic diversity are complementary because whereas the former is directly related to genetic variance for quantitative traits and, therefore, to the short-term response to selection and adaptation, the latter is more sensitive to population bottlenecks and relates more strongly to the long-term capacity of adaptation of populations. In the context of structured populations undergoing conservation programs, it is important to decide the optimum management strategy to preserve as much genetic diversity as possible while avoiding inbreeding. Here we examine, through computer simulations, the consequences of choosing a conservation strategy based on maximizing either heterozygosity or allelic diversity of single-nucleotide polymorphism haplotypes in a subdivided population. Our results suggest that maximization of allelic diversity can be more efficient in maintaining the genetic diversity of subdivided populations than maximization of expected heterozygosity because the former maintains a larger number of alleles while making a better control of inbreeding. Thus, maximization of allelic diversity should be a recommended strategy in conservation programs for structured populations.
Project description:We estimated neutral diversity of 21 European cattle breeds with 105 microsatellites. Nine of them resembled unselected Balkan Buša strains with diffuse breeding barriers and the 12 others were strongly differentiated, isolated breeds. Because of the impact of neutral genetic diversity on long-term population adaptive capacity, we discuss the long-term outcome of different conservation priorities in a subdivided metapopulation of the investigated cattle breeds. The optimal contribution to a pool of total genetic diversity allocated more than 95% of long-term relevant neutral diversity to virtually unselected strains of the Balkan Buša, while the maximization of total variance preferred inbred breeds. Current artificial selection methods, such as genomic selection sped up and a recovery of underestimated traits becomes quickly impossible. We emphasize that currently neutral and even deleterious alleles might be required for future genotypes in sustainable and efficient livestock breeding and production systems of a 21st century. We provide cumulative evidences that long-term survival relies on genetic complexity and complexity relies on allelic diversity. Our results suggest that virtually unselected, nonuniform strains harbor a crucial proportion of neutral diversity and should be conserved with high global priority. As one example, we suggest a cooperative maintenance of the nondifferentiated, highly fragmented, and fast vanishing metapopulation of Balkan Buša.
Project description:Multigene families-immunity genes or sensory receptors, for instance-are often subject to diversifying selection. Allelic diversity may be favored not only through balancing or frequency-dependent selection at individual loci but also by associating different alleles in multicopy gene families. Using a combination of analytical calculations and simulations, we explored a population genetic model of epistatic selection and unequal recombination, where a trade-off exists between the benefit of allelic diversity and the cost of copy abundance. Starting from the neutral case, where we showed that gene copy number is Gamma distributed at equilibrium, we derived also the mean and shape of the limiting distribution under selection. Considering a more general model, which includes variable population size and population substructure, we explored by simulations mean fitness and some summary statistics of the copy number distribution. We determined the relative effects of selection, recombination, and demographic parameters in maintaining allelic diversity and shaping the mean fitness of a population. One way to control the variance of copy number is by lowering the rate of unequal recombination. Indeed, when encoding recombination by a rate modifier locus, we observe exactly this prediction. Finally, we analyzed the empirical copy number distribution of 3 genes in human and estimated recombination and selection parameters of our model.
Project description:In natural populations, allelic diversity of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is commonly interpreted as resulting from positive selection in varying spatiotemporal pathogenic landscapes. Composite pathogenic landscape data are, however, rarely available. We studied the spatial distribution of allelic diversity at two MHC class II loci (DQA, DQB) in hares, Lepus capensis, along a steep ecological gradient in North Africa and tested the role of climatic parameters for the spatial distribution of DQA and DQB proteins. Climatic parameters were considered to reflect to some extent pathogenic landscape variation. We investigated historical and contemporary forces that have shaped the variability at both genes, and tested for differential selective pressure across the ecological gradient by comparing allelic variation at MHC and neutral loci. We found positive selection on both MHC loci and significantly decreasing diversity from North to South Tunisia. Our multinomial linear models revealed significant effects of geographical positions that were correlated with mean annual temperature and precipitation on the occurrence of protein variants, but no effects of co-occurring DQA or DQB proteins, respectively. Diversifying selection, recombination, adaptation to local pathogenic landscapes (supposedly reflected by climate parameters) and neutral demographic processes have shaped the observed MHC diversity and differentiation patterns.
Project description:Abstract Genetic diversity is important for long?term viability of a population. Low genetic diversity reduces persistence and survival of populations and increases susceptibility to diseases. Comparisons of the neutral markers with functional loci such as immune genes [Toll?like receptors; TLR] can provide useful insights into evolutionary potential of a species and how the diversity of pathogens and selection pressures on their hosts are directly linked to their environment. In this study, we compare genetic diversity in neutral (eleven microsatellite loci) and adaptive (seven TLR loci) loci to determine genetic variation in a nonmigratory western Himalayan passerine, the black?throated tit (Aegithalos concinnus), distributed across an elevation gradient with varying degree of pathogen?mediated selection pressure. We further compare the diversity in TLR loci with a high?elevation sister species, the white?throated tit (Aegithalos niveogularis). Our results indicate a lack of population genetic structure in the black?throated tit and signatures of a past bottleneck. In contrast, we found high diversity in TLR loci and locus?specific (TLR7) signatures of pathogen?mediated selection, which was comparable to diversity in the white?throated tit. Levels of diversity at TLR5 locus corresponded very closely with neutral microsatellite variation. We found evidence of positive selection in TLR1LA, TLR5, and TLR7 loci highlighting the importance in pathogen recognition. Our finding demonstrates that reduction in neutral variation does not necessarily lead to reduction in functional genetic diversity and probably helps in revival of population in a widespread species. Comparisons of allelic richness (size corrected) using eight neutral loci and seven TLR loci (*p < .05; **p < .01; and ***p < .001) in the black?throated tit.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Rhesus macaques living in western Sichuan, China, have been separated into several isolated populations due to habitat fragmentation. Previous studies based on the neutral or nearly neutral markers (mitochondrial DNA or microsatellites) showed high levels of genetic diversity and moderate genetic differentiation in the Sichuan rhesus macaques. Variation at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) loci is widely accepted as being maintained by balancing selection, even with a low level of neutral variability in some species. However, in small and isolated or bottlenecked populations, balancing selection may be overwhelmed by genetic drift. To estimate microevolutionary forces acting on the isolated rhesus macaque populations, we examined genetic variation at Mhc-DQB1 loci in 119 wild rhesus macaques from five geographically isolated populations in western Sichuan, China, and compared the levels of MHC variation and differentiation among populations with that previously observed at neutral microsatellite markers. RESULTS:23 Mamu-DQB1 alleles were identified in 119 rhesus macaques in western Sichuan, China. These macaques exhibited relatively high levels of genetic diversity at Mamu-DQB1. The Hanyuan population presented the highest genetic variation, whereas the Heishui population was the lowest. Analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) and pairwise FST values showed moderate genetic differentiation occurring among the five populations at the Mhc-DQB1 locus. Non-synonymous substitutions occurred at a higher frequency than synonymous substitutions in the peptide binding region. Levels of MHC variation within rhesus macaque populations are concordant with microsatellite variation. On the phylogenetic tree for the rhesus and crab-eating macaques, extensive allele or allelic lineage sharing is observed between the two species. CONCLUSIONS:Phylogenetic analyses confirm the apparent trans-species model of evolution of the Mhc-DQB1 genes in these macaques. Balancing selection plays an important role in sharing allelic lineages between species, but genetic drift may share balancing selection dominance to maintain MHC diversity. Great divergence at neutral or adaptive markers showed that moderate genetic differentiation had occurred in rhesus macaque populations in western Sichuan, China, due to the habitat fragmentation caused by long-term geographic barriers and human activity. The Heishui population should be paid more attention for its lowest level of genetic diversity and relatively great divergence from others.
Project description:Genetic diversity is fundamental to maintaining the long-term viability of populations, yet reduced genetic variation is often associated with small, isolated populations. To examine the relationship between demography and genetic variation, variation at hypervariable loci (e.g., microsatellite DNA loci) is often measured. However, these loci are selectively neutral (or near neutral) and may not accurately reflect genomewide variation. Variation at functional trait loci, such as the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), can provide a better assessment of adaptive genetic variation in fragmented populations. We compared patterns of microsatellite and MHC variation across three Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) populations representing a gradient of demographic histories to assess the relative roles of natural selection and genetic drift. Using 454 deep amplicon sequencing, we identified 24 putatively functional MHC IIB exon 2 alleles belonging to a minimum of six loci. Analysis of synonymous and nonsynonymous substitution rates provided evidence of historical positive selection at the nucleotide level, and Tajima's D provided support for balancing selection in each population. As predicted, estimates of microsatellite allelic richness, observed, heterozygosity, and expected heterozygosity varied among populations in a pattern qualitatively consistent with demographic history and abundance. While MHC allelic richness at the population and individual levels revealed similar trends, MHC nucleotide diversity was unexpectedly high in the smallest population. Overall, these results suggest that genetic variation in the Eastern Massasauga populations in Illinois has been shaped by multiple evolutionary mechanisms. Thus, conservation efforts should consider both neutral and functional genetic variation when managing captive and wild Eastern Massasauga populations.
Project description:Assessing population evolutionary potential has become a central tenet of conservation biology. Since adaptive responses require allelic variation at functional genes, consensus has grown that genetic variation at genes under selection is a better surrogate for adaptive evolutionary potential than neutral genetic diversity. Although consistent with prevailing theory, this argument lacks empirical support and ignores recent theoretical advances questioning the very concept of neutral genetic diversity. In this study, we quantified genome-wide responses of single nucleotide polymorphism loci linked to climatic factors over a strong latitudinal gradient in natural populations of the high Andean wetland plant, Carex gayana, and then assessed whether genetic variation of candidate climate-selected loci better predicted their genome-wide responses than genetic variation of non-candidate loci. Contrary to this expectation, genomic responses of climate-linked loci only related significantly to environmental variables and genetic diversity of non-candidate loci. The effects of genome-wide genetic diversity detected in this study may be a result of either the combined influence of small effect variants or neutral and demographic factors altering the adaptive evolutionary potential of C. gayana populations. Regardless of the processes involved, our results redeem genome-wide genetic diversity as a potentially useful indicator of population adaptive evolutionary potential.
Project description:Since the autosomal genome is shared between the sexes, sex-specific fitness optima present an evolutionary challenge. While sexually antagonistic selection might favor different alleles within females and males, segregation randomly reassorts alleles at autosomal loci between sexes each generation. This process of homogenization during transmission thus prevents between-sex allelic divergence generated by sexually antagonistic selection from accumulating across multiple generations. However, recent empirical studies have reported high male-female FST statistics. Here, we use a population genetic model to evaluate whether these observations could plausibly be produced by sexually antagonistic selection. To do this, we use both a single-locus model with nonrandom mate choice, and individual-based simulations to study the relationship between strength of selection, degree of between-sex divergence, and the associated genetic load. We show that selection must be exceptionally strong to create measurable divergence between the sexes and that the decrease in population fitness due to this process is correspondingly high. Individual-based simulations with selection genome-wide recapitulate these patterns and indicate that small sample sizes and sampling variance can easily generate substantial male-female divergence. We therefore conclude that caution should be taken when interpreting autosomal allelic differentiation between the sexes.