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Mol Biol Evol. 2000 Apr;17(4):489-98.

Extensive homoplasy, nonstepwise mutations, and shared ancestral polymorphism at a complex microsatellite locus in Lake Malawi cichlids.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, England.


Recent studies have suggested that size homoplasy is a prevalent feature of microsatellites and is expected to increase with time of divergence among populations and taxa. In this study, we performed sequence analysis of alleles from a complex microsatellite locus (Pzeb4, initially isolated from Pseudotropheus (Maylandia) zebra) from 1 midwater-feeding and 10 rock-dwelling cichlid fish species from Lake Malawi, East Africa, to investigate how widespread size homoplasy is among closely related taxa at this locus. All cichlid fishes endemic to this lake are believed to have originated within the last 700,000 years, and some species may be less than 200 years old. The number of eletromorphs found per species varied from 3 to 13. Sequence analysis of 95 cloned Pzeb4 PCR products (representing 18 electromorphs) revealed 13 new alleles. Ten of the 13 electromorphs (77%) were found to show size homoplasy due to either single nucleotide substitutions/indels or large indels. To investigate how well this locus fits the single-step mutation model (SMM), the minimum number of mutations required to explain the length differences between pairs of alleles was plotted against their size differences. Of the 300 comparisons, 166 (55.3%) corresponded to SMM expectations and 86 (28.7%) required a smaller number of mutations, and for 48 (16.0%) pairwise comparisons, a larger number of mutations were required to explain the length differences as compared with SMM expectations. Finally, a large deletion in the microsatellite sequence observed in the three rock-dwelling species Pseudotropheus lucerna, Pseudotropheus (Tropheops) 'band,' and Pseudotropheus (Tropheops) 'rust' and the midwater-feeding species Copadichromis sp. is believed to represent a shared ancestral polymorphism.

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