Primate genotyping via high resolution melt analysis: rapid and reliable identification of color vision status in wild lemurs
Analyses of genetic polymorphisms can aid our understanding of intra- and interspecific variation in primate sociality, ecology, and behavior. Studies of primate opsin genes are prime examples of this, as single nucleotide variants (SNVs) in the X-linked opsin gene underlie variation in color vision. For primate species with polymorphic trichromacy, genotyping opsin SNVs can generally indicate whether individual primates are red-green color-blind (denoted homozygous M or homozygous L) or have full trichromatic color vision (heterozygous ML). Given the potential influence of color vision on behavior and fitness, characterizing the color vision status of study subjects is becoming commonplace for many primate field projects. Such studies traditionally involve a multi-step sequencing-based method that can be costly and time-consuming. Here we present a new reliable, rapid, and relatively inexpensive method for characterizing color vision in primate populations using high resolution melt analysis (HRMA). Using lemurs as a case study, we characterized variation at exons 3 and/or 5 of the X-linked opsin gene for 87 individuals representing nine species. We scored opsin genotypes and color vision status using both traditional sequencing-based methods as well as our novel melting-curve based HRMA protocol. For each species, the melting curves of varying genotypes (homozygous M, homozygous L, heterozygous ML) differed in melting temperature and/or shape. Melting curves for each sample were consistent across replicates, and genotype-specific melting curves were consistent across DNA sources (blood vs. feces). We show that opsin genotypes can be quickly and reliably scored using HRMA once lab-specific reference curves have been developed based on known genotypes. Although the protocol presented here focuses on genotyping lemur opsin loci, we also consider the larger potential for applying this approach to various types of genetic studies of primate populations.
KeywordsOpsin Strepsirrhines Sensory ecology Technique Single nucleotide variant genotyping
We thank Shoji Kawamura, Amanda Melin, and Michael James Montague for helpful comments and suggestions, and we thank Gary Aronsen for logistical support in the Yale Molecular Anthropology Lab. Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation (FSML 1227143), the UK Natural Environment Research Council, Yale University, and the George Washington University. All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.