Self-fertilization sweeps up variation in the worm genome

Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Oregon, Eugene, USA.
Nature Genetics (Impact Factor: 29.35). 02/2012; 44(3):237-8. DOI: 10.1038/ng.2201
Source: PubMed


A new study reports a comprehensive survey of genetic diversity in natural populations of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Their analyses suggest that recent chromosome-scale selective sweeps have reduced C. elegans genetic diversity worldwide and strongly structured genetic variation across its genome.

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    • "Those rotting fruits were collected primarily in human-built orchards; although rotting stems are found in natural preserves, primary forests no longer exist in Europe [13]. Like many other model organisms (Drosophila melanogaster, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Mus musculus), C. elegans is thus at least partly human-associated, which likely exerts a strong influence on its range, migration patterns, and population structure [5,14,15]. However, we still have very limited information on the distribution of C. elegans and other Caenorhabditis species relating to habitat type and geographic location. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background In stark contrast to the wealth of detail about C. elegans developmental biology and molecular genetics, biologists lack basic data for understanding the abundance and distribution of Caenorhabditis species in natural areas that are unperturbed by human influence. Methods Here we report the analysis of dense sampling from a small, remote site in the Amazonian rain forest of the Nouragues Natural Reserve in French Guiana. Results Sampling of rotting fruits and flowers revealed proliferating populations of Caenorhabditis, with up to three different species co-occurring within a single substrate sample, indicating remarkable overlap of local microhabitats. We isolated six species, representing the highest local species richness for Caenorhabditis encountered to date, including both tropically cosmopolitan and geographically restricted species not previously isolated elsewhere. We also documented the structure of within-species molecular diversity at multiple spatial scales, focusing on 57 C. briggsae isolates from French Guiana. Two distinct genetic subgroups co-occur even within a single fruit. However, the structure of C. briggsae population genetic diversity in French Guiana does not result from strong local patterning but instead presents a microcosm of global patterns of differentiation. We further integrate our observations with new data from nearly 50 additional recently collected C. briggsae isolates from both tropical and temperate regions of the world to re-evaluate local and global patterns of intraspecific diversity, providing the most comprehensive analysis to date for C. briggsae population structure across multiple spatial scales. Conclusions The abundance and species richness of Caenorhabditis nematodes is high in a Neotropical rainforest habitat that is subject to minimal human interference. Microhabitat preferences overlap for different local species, although global distributions include both cosmopolitan and geographically restricted groups. Local samples for the cosmopolitan C. briggsae mirror its pan-tropical patterns of intraspecific polymorphism. It remains an important challenge to decipher what drives Caenorhabditis distributions and diversity within and between species.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2013 · BMC Evolutionary Biology