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Genetics. 2006 Jan;172(1):171-84. Epub 2005 Nov 4.

Nucleotide polymorphism and linkage disequilibrium in wild populations of the partial selfer Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, United Kingdom.


An understanding of the relative contributions of different evolutionary forces on an organism's genome requires an accurate description of the patterns of genetic variation within and between natural populations. To this end, I report a survey of nucleotide polymorphism in six loci from 118 strains of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. These strains derive from wild populations of several regions within France, Germany, and new localities in Scotland, in addition to stock center isolates. Overall levels of silent-site diversity are low within and between populations of this self-fertile species, averaging 0.2% in European samples and 0.3% worldwide. Population structure is present despite a lack of association of sequences with geography, and migration appears to occur at all geographic scales. Linkage disequilibrium is extensive in the C. elegans genome, extending even between chromosomes. Nevertheless, recombination is clearly present in the pattern of polymorphisms, indicating that outcrossing is an infrequent, but important, feature in this species ancestry. The range of outcrossing rates consistent with the data is inferred from linkage disequilibrium, using "scattered" samples representing the collecting phase of the coalescent process in a subdivided population. I propose that genetic variation in this species is shaped largely by population subdivision due to self-fertilization coupled with long- and short-range migration between subpopulations.

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