Patterns of selection and polymorphism of innate immunity genes in bumblebees (Hymenoptera: Apidae)
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In response to on-going biodiversity loss, conservation genetics has established itself as an important branch of biology. Historically concentrating on assessing stochastic processes using neutral loci, there has been a recent surge of interest in understanding and quantifying variation at loci underlying ecologically important traits. To this end, patterns of selection and polymorphism at these loci must be characterized. Loci underlying immunity make good candidates in this context: they are expected to be important for population persistence and may exhibit diversifying or divergent selection. Predictions regarding the pattern of selection expected at immune system loci have been based on their interactions with pathogens, however, published studies report mixed results as to whether these are borne out or not. Here, polymorphism and selection is examined for three innate immune system loci in bumblebees: a peptidoglycan recognition protein, a putative alpha-macroglobulin, and scavenger receptor. Both intra- and inter-specific sequence variation is quantified. Very little polymorphism was encountered, precluding robust tests of selection. However, the lack of inter-specific polymorphisms suggests a lack of positive selection for the regions sequenced. Results are discussed with respect to population genetic predictions and generation of a specific immune response in insects. Alternative loci and methods for studying adaptive genetic variation in a conservation context are considered.
KeywordsInnate immunity Social insects Bombus Evolutionary genetics Conservation
This work was fully funded by the Leverhulme Trust (F/00 568/S). Thanks are also extended to the National Trust, Dartmoor National Park Authority (Norman Baldock) and Natural England (Pete Stevens) for sampling permission. Many thanks also to Paddy Saunders for advice on bumblebee distributions in south-west England. Thanks to researchers who were contacted and kindly passed on reprints.
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