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Mol Biol Evol. 2011 Jan;28(1):745-58. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msq248. Epub 2010 Sep 13.

Chromosomal inversions, natural selection and adaptation in the malaria vector Anopheles funestus.

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  • 1Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, UR016 CCPV, Montpellier, France.


Chromosomal polymorphisms, such as inversions, are presumably involved in the rapid adaptation of populations to local environmental conditions. Reduced recombination between alternative arrangements in heterozygotes may protect sets of locally adapted genes, promoting ecological divergence and potentially leading to reproductive isolation and speciation. Through a comparative analysis of chromosomal inversions and microsatellite marker polymorphisms, we hereby present biological evidence that strengthens this view in the mosquito Anopheles funestus s.s, one of the most important and widespread malaria vectors in Africa. Specimens were collected across a wide range of geographical, ecological, and climatic conditions in Cameroon. We observed a sharp contrast between population structure measured at neutral microsatellite markers and at chromosomal inversions. Microsatellite data detected only a weak signal for population structuring among geographical zones (F(ST) < 0.013, P < 0.01). By contrast, strong differentiation among ecological zones was revealed by chromosomal inversions (F(ST) > 0.190, P < 0.01). Using standardized estimates of F(ST), we show that inversions behave at odds with neutral expectations strongly suggesting a role of environmental selection in shaping their distribution. We further demonstrate through canonical correspondence analysis that heterogeneity in eco-geographical variables measured at specimen sampling sites explained 89% of chromosomal variance in A. funestus. These results are in agreement with a role of chromosomal inversions in ecotypic adaptation in this species. We argue that this widespread mosquito represents an interesting model system for the study of chromosomal speciation mechanisms and should provide ample opportunity for comparative studies on the evolution of reproductive isolation and speciation in major human malaria vectors.

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