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Genetics. 2002 Oct;162(2):813-22.

Reconstruction of microsatellite mutation history reveals a strong and consistent deletion bias in invasive clonal snails, Potamopyrgus antipodarum.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Hull, United Kingdom.


Direct observations of mutations and comparative analyses suggest that nuclear microsatellites show a tendency to expand, with reports of deletion biases limited to very long alleles or a few loci in multilocus studies. Here we investigate microsatellite evolution in clonal snails, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, since their introduction to Britain in the 19th century, using an analysis based on minimum spanning networks of multilocus microsatellite genotypes. British populations consist of a small number of highly distinct genotype groups with very few outlying genotypes, suggesting clonal lineages containing minor variation generated by mutation. Network patterns suggest that a single introduced genotype was the ancestor of all extant variation and also provide support for wholly apomictic reproduction within the most common clonal lineage (group A). Microsatellites within group A showed a strong tendency to delete repeats, with an overall bias exceeding 88%, irrespective of the exact method used to infer mutations. This highly unusual pattern of deletion bias is consistent across populations and loci and is unrelated to allele size. We suggest that for persistence of microsatellites in this clone, some change in the mutation mechanism must have occurred in relatively recent evolutionary time. Possible causes of such a change in mechanism are discussed.

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