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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2012 Feb 5;367(1587):395-408. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0245.

Extensive linkage disequilibrium and parallel adaptive divergence across threespine stickleback genomes.

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Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-5289, USA.


Population genomic studies are beginning to provide a more comprehensive view of dynamic genome-scale processes in evolution. Patterns of genomic architecture, such as genomic islands of increased divergence, may be important for adaptive population differentiation and speciation. We used next-generation sequencing data to examine the patterns of local and long-distance linkage disequilibrium (LD) across oceanic and freshwater populations of threespine stickleback, a useful model for studies of evolution and speciation. We looked for associations between LD and signatures of divergent selection, and assessed the role of recombination rate variation in generating LD patterns. As predicted under the traditional biogeographic model of unidirectional gene flow from ancestral oceanic to derived freshwater stickleback populations, we found extensive local and long-distance LD in fresh water. Surprisingly, oceanic populations showed similar patterns of elevated LD, notably between large genomic regions previously implicated in adaptation to fresh water. These results support an alternative biogeographic model for the stickleback radiation, one of a metapopulation with appreciable bi-directional gene flow combined with strong divergent selection between oceanic and freshwater populations. As predicted by theory, these processes can maintain LD within and among genomic islands of divergence. These findings suggest that the genomic architecture in oceanic stickleback populations may provide a mechanism for the rapid re-assembly and evolution of multi-locus genotypes in newly colonized freshwater habitats, and may help explain genetic mapping of parallel phenotypic variation to similar loci across independent freshwater populations.

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