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Genome Biol Evol. 2013;5(4):661-79. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evt037.

Drosophila americana as a model species for comparative studies on the molecular basis of phenotypic variation.

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EMBL - European Bioinformatics Institute, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


Understanding the molecular basis of within and between species phenotypic variation is one of the main goals of Biology. In Drosophila, most of the work regarding this issue has been performed in D. melanogaster, but other distantly related species must also be studied to verify the generality of the findings obtained for this species. Here, we make the case for D. americana, a species of the virilis group of Drosophila that has been diverging from the model species, D. melanogaster, for approximately 40 Myr. To determine the suitability of this species for such studies, polymorphism and recombination estimates are presented for D. americana based on the largest nucleotide sequence polymorphism data set so far analyzed (more than 100 data sets) for this species. The polymorphism estimates are also compared with those obtained from the comparison of the genome assembly of two D. americana strains (H5 and W11) here reported. As an example of the general utility of these resources, we perform a preliminary study on the molecular basis of lifespan differences in D. americana. First, we show that there are lifespan differences between D. americana populations from different regions of the distribution range. Then, we perform five F2 association experiments using markers for 21 candidate genes previously identified in D. melanogaster. Significant associations are found between polymorphism at two genes (hep and Lim3) and lifespan. For the F2 association study involving the two sequenced strains (H5 and W11), we identify amino acid differences at Lim3 and Hep that could be responsible for the observed changes in lifespan. For both genes, no large gene expression differences were observed between the two strains.

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