ABSTRACT: Differences in gene expression are termed expression level polymorphisms (ELPs). Here, we propose a new ELP class, bimodal ELPs (bELPs), as a criterion to screen for genes that are responsible for natural phenotypic variation and/or that are targeted by balancing selection. bELP genes are characterized by two expression level modes. Genomic scans based on nucleotide sequences are not ideal for identifying genes targeted for selection. A critical concern is that several genes can be present in the selection-targeted regions identified by such scans. This situation indicates the importance of integrating genomic sequence data and other information, such as gene expression data. Comparative transcriptomics is useful for determining evolutionarily and ecologically important polymorphisms. In a genome-wide expression screen of 34 accessions, we identified 344 Arabidopsis thaliana genes exhibiting bELPs. Population genetic analysis revealed that bELP genes had high nucleotide diversities and long linkage disequilibriums. The highest nucleotide diversity (11-fold greater than the genomic mean) was found in the At1g23780 gene, which encodes a putative F-box protein. We observed a clear association between the expression mode and sequence type of the At1g23780 gene. Our results suggest that bELPs will be useful for the screening and functional analysis of genes responsible for phenotypic polymorphisms. Such a "multi-omics" approach has the potential to facilitate the scanning of genes relevant to balanced polymorphisms not only in A. thaliana, but also in other model and non-model organisms.
Plant signaling & behavior 07/2012; 7(7):864-73.