Send to

Choose Destination
Mol Ecol. 2013 Feb;22(3):724-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05667.x. Epub 2012 Jun 13.

Recurrent gene deletions and the evolution of adaptive cyanogenesis polymorphisms in white clover (Trifolium repens L.).

Author information

Department of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899, USA.


Understanding the molecular evolution of genes that underlie intraspecific polymorphisms can provide insights into the process of adaptive evolution. For adaptive polymorphisms characterized by gene presence/absence (P/A) variation, underlying loci commonly show signatures of long-term balancing selection, with gene-presence and gene-absence alleles maintained as two divergent lineages. We examined the molecular evolution of two unlinked P/A polymorphisms that underlie a well-documented adaptive polymorphism for cyanogenesis (hydrogen cyanide release with tissue damage) in white clover. Both cyanogenic and acyanogenic plants occur in this species, and the ecological forces that maintain this chemical defence polymorphism have been studied for several decades. Using a sample of 65 plants, we investigated the molecular evolution of sequences flanking the two underlying cyanogenesis genes: Ac/ac (controlling the presence/absence of cyanogenic glucosides) and Li/li (controlling the presence/absence of their hydrolysing enzyme, linamarase). A combination of genome walking, PCR assays, DNA sequence analysis and Southern blotting was used to test whether these adaptive P/A polymorphisms show evidence of long-term balancing selection, or whether gene-absence alleles have evolved repeatedly through independent deletion events. For both loci, we detect no signatures of balancing selection in the closest flanking genomic sequences. Instead, we find evidence for variation in the size of the deletions characterizing gene-absence alleles. These observations strongly suggest that both of these polymorphisms have been evolving through recurrent gene deletions over time. We discuss the genetic mechanisms that could account for this surprising pattern and the implications of these findings for mechanisms of rapid adaptive evolution in white clover.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Publication type, MeSH terms, Substances, Secondary source ID

Publication type

MeSH terms


Secondary source ID

LinkOut - more resources

Full Text Sources

Other Literature Sources

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center