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Mol Biol Evol. 2006 Mar;23(3):499-512. Epub 2005 Nov 16.

From DNA to fitness differences: sequences and structures of adaptive variants of Colias phosphoglucose isomerase (PGI).

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Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, USA.


Colias eurytheme butterflies display extensive allozyme polymorphism in the enzyme phosphoglucose isomerase (PGI). Earlier studies on biochemical and fitness effects of these genotypes found evidence of strong natural selection maintaining this polymorphism in the wild. Here we analyze the molecular features of this polymorphism by sequencing multiple alleles and modeling their structures. PGI is a dimer with rotational symmetry. Each monomer provides a critical residue to the other monomer's catalytic center. Sequenced alleles differ at multiple amino acid positions, including cryptic charge-neutral variation, but most consistent differences among the electromorph alleles are at the charge-changing amino acid sites. Principal candidate sites of selection, identified by structural and functional analyses and by their variants' population frequencies, occur in interpenetrating loops across the interface between monomers, where they may alter subunit interactions and catalytic center geometry. Comparison to a second (and basal) species, Colias meadii, also polymorphic for PGI under natural selection, reveals one fixed amino acid difference between their PGIs, which is located in the interpenetrating loop and accompanies functional differences among their variants. We also study nucleotide variability among the PGI alleles, comparing these data to similar data from another glycolytic enzyme gene, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase. Despite extensive nonsynonymous and synonymous polymorphism at PGI in each species, the only base changes fixed between species are the two causing the amino acid replacement; this absence of synonymous fixation yields a significant McDonald-Kreitman test. Analyses of these data suggest historical population expansion. Positive peaks of Tajima's D statistic, representing regions of neutral "hitchhiking," are found around the principal candidate sites of selection. This study provides novel views of molecular-structural mechanisms, and beginnings of historical evidence, for a long-persistent balanced enzyme polymorphism at PGI in these and perhaps other species.

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