A Reanalysis of Protein Polymorphism in Drosophila Melanogaster, D. Simulans, D. Sechellia and D. Mauritiana: Effects of Population Size and Selection

Research paper by Richard A. Morton, Madhu Choudhary, Marie-Louise Cariou, Rama S. Singh

Indexed on: 01 Mar '04Published on: 01 Mar '04Published in: Genetica


Comparison of synonymous and nonsynonymous variation/substitution within and between species at individual genes has become a widely used general approach to detect the effect of selection versus drift. The sibling species group comprised of two cosmopolitan (Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans) and two island (Drosophila mauritiana and Drosophila sechellia) species has become a model system for such studies. In the present study we reanalyzed the pattern of protein variation in these species, and the results were compared against the patterns of nucleotide variation obtained from the literature, mostly available for melanogaster and simulans. We have mainly focused on the contrasting patterns of variation between the cosmopolitan pair. The results can be summarized as follows: (1) As expected the island species D. mauritiana and D. sechellia showed much less variation than the cosmopolitan species D. melanogaster and D. simulans. (2) The chromosome 2 showed significantly less variation than chromosome 3 and X in all four species which may indicate effects of past selective sweeps. (3) In contrast to its overall low variation, D. mauritiana showed highest variation for X-linked loci which may indicate introgression from its sibling, D. simulans. (4) An average population of D. simulans was as heterozygous as that of D. melanogaster (14.4% v.s. 13.9%) but the difference was large and significant when considering only polymorphic loci (37.2% v.s. 26.1%). (5) The species-wise pooled populations of these two species showed similar results (all loci = 18.3% v.s. 20.0%, polymorphic loci = 47.2% v.s. 37.6%). (6) An average population of D. simulans had more low-frequency alleles than D. melanogaster, and the D. simulans alleles were found widely distributed in all populations whereas the D. melanogaster alleles were limited to local populations. As a results of this, pooled populations of D. melanogaster showed more polymorphic loci than those of D. simulans (48.0% v.s. 32.0%) but the difference was reduced when the comparison was made on the basis of an average population (29.1% v.s. 21.4%). (7) While the allele frequency distributions within populations were nonsignificant in both D. melanogaster and D. simulans, melanogaster had fewer than simulans, but more than expected from the neutral theory, low frequency alleles. (8) Diallelic loci with the second allele with a frequency less than 20% had similar frequencies in all four species but those with the second allele with a frequency higher than 20% were limited to only melanogaster: the latter group of loci have clinal (latitudinal) patterns of variation indicative of balancing selection. (9) The comparison of D. simulans/D. melanogaster protein variation gave a ratio of 1.04 for all loci and 1.42 for polymorphic loci, against a ratio of approximately 2-fold difference for silent nucleotide sites. This suggests that the species ratios of protein and silent nucleotide polymorphism are too close to call for selective difference between silent and allozyme variation in D. simulans. In conclusion, the contrasting levels of allozyme polymorphism, distribution of rare alleles, number of diallelic loci and the patterns of geographic differentiation between the two species suggest the role of natural selection in D. melanogaster, and of possibly ancient population structure and recent worldwide migration in D. simulans. Population size differences alone are insufficient as an explanation for the patterns of variation between these two species.