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Genetics. 2012 Jan;190(1):203-16. doi: 10.1534/genetics.111.134494. Epub 2011 Oct 31.

Altitudinal variation at duplicated β-globin genes in deer mice: effects of selection, recombination, and gene conversion.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588, USA. jstorz2@unl.edu


Spatially varying selection on a given polymorphism is expected to produce a localized peak in the between-population component of nucleotide diversity, and theory suggests that the chromosomal extent of elevated differentiation may be enhanced in cases where tandemly linked genes contribute to fitness variation. An intriguing example is provided by the tandemly duplicated β-globin genes of deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), which contribute to adaptive differentiation in blood-oxygen affinity between high- and low-altitude populations. Remarkably, the two β-globin genes segregate the same pair of functionally distinct alleles due to a history of interparalog gene conversion and alleles of the same functional type are in perfect coupling-phase linkage disequilibrium (LD). Here we report a multilocus analysis of nucleotide polymorphism and LD in highland and lowland mice with different genetic backgrounds at the β-globin genes. The analysis of haplotype structure revealed a paradoxical pattern whereby perfect LD between the two β-globin paralogs (which are separated by 16.2 kb) is maintained in spite of the fact that LD within both paralogs decays to background levels over physical distances of less than 1 kb. The survey of nucleotide polymorphism revealed that elevated levels of altitudinal differentiation at each of the β-globin genes drop away quite rapidly in the external flanking regions (upstream of the 5' paralog and downstream of the 3' paralog), but the level of differentiation remains unexpectedly high across the intergenic region. Observed patterns of diversity and haplotype structure are difficult to reconcile with expectations of a two-locus selection model with multiplicative fitness.

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