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Olfactory receptors and behavioural isolation: a study on Microtus voles

Abstract

Genetic variation in olfactory receptors may trigger mate choice, suggesting that olfaction has undergone diversifying selection in diverging populations and may contribute to premating reproductive isolation. In the present study, we analysed two olfactory receptor genes as candidate barriers of reproductive isolation between two recently divergent voles: Microtus lusitanicus and Microtus duodecimcostatus. In addition, evolutionary relationships and signs of positive selection were inferred in a European subgenera context, based on 76 samples from 14 species. DNA sequence analysis revealed the presence of shared haplotypes among various Microtus species. Tests of selection detected negatively selected amino acids in the extracellular loops of both olfactory receptors and a majority of negatively selected residues in the transmembrane helices, the most variable regions responsible for the reception of odorants. Our findings suggest that, for several Microtus species, including M. lusitanicus and M. duodecimcostatus, these proteins probably recognise conserved odour cues not related to behavioural isolation.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Isabel Rey from the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (Madrid, Spain) for providing biological samples. We would also like to thank Heidi Lischer for providing the repeated random haplotype sampling analysis software before publication and to Susanne Tellenbach for technical assistance. M. A. Duarte was supported by Ph.D. grant SFRH/BD/70646/2010 from the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and G. Heckel by grant 31003A-149585 from the Swiss National Science Foundation. This study was developed under the project PTDC/BIA-BEC/103729/2008 (FCT), coordinated by C. Bastos-Silveira. Thanks are due, for the financial support to Centro de Estudos de Ambiente e Mar (UID/AMB/50017), to FCT/MEC through national funds and the co-funding by the FEDER, within the PT2020 Partnership Agreement and Compete 2020.

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Duarte, M.A., Heckel, G., da Luz Mathias, M. et al. Olfactory receptors and behavioural isolation: a study on Microtus voles. Mamm Res 61, 399–407 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13364-016-0266-0

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Keywords

  • Behavioural isolation
  • Olfaction
  • Olfactory receptors
  • Microtus
  • Sister species