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Concept: Amplified fragment length polymorphism


Dispersal has received growing attention in marine ecology, particularly since evidence obtained with up-to-date techniques challenged the traditional view. The dogwhelk Nucella lapillus L., a sedentary gastropod with direct development, is a good example: dispersal was traditionally assumed to be limited until studies with microsatellites disputed this idea. To shed some light on this controversy, the genetic structure of dogwhelk populations in northwest Spain was investigated with highly polymorphic AFLP markers giving special attention to the influence of hydrodynamic stress. In agreement with the expectations for a poor disperser, our results show a significant genetic structure at regional (<200 km) and areal scales (<15 km). However, the spatial genetic structure varied with wave-exposure in the present case study: IBD was evident under sheltered conditions but absent from the exposed area where genetic differentiation was stronger. Our results provide evidence that differences in wave-exposure can exert a detectable influence on the genetic structure of coastal organisms, even in species without a planktonic larva.

Concepts: DNA, Biology, Population, Mollusca, Dog whelk, Amplified fragment length polymorphism, Nucella, Gastropod shell


BACKGROUND: Complex binary traits are influenced by many factors including the main effects of many quantitative trait loci (QTLs), the epistatic effects involving more than one QTLs, environmental effects and the effects of gene-environment interactions. Although a number of QTL mapping methods for binary traits have been developed, there still lacks an efficient and powerful method that can handle both main and epistatic effects of a relatively large number of possible QTLs. RESULTS: In this paper, we use a Bayesian logistic regression model as the QTL model for binary traits that includes both main and epistatic effects. Our logistic regression model employs hierarchical priors for regression coefficients similar to the ones used in the Bayesian LASSO linear model for multiple QTL mapping for continuous traits. We develop efficient empirical Bayesian algorithms to infer the logistic regression model. Our simulation study shows that our algorithms can easily handle a QTL model with a large number of main and epistatic effects on a personal computer, and outperform five other methods examined including the LASSO, HyperLasso, BhGLM, RVM and the single-QTL mapping method based on logistic regression in terms of power of detection and false positive rate. The utility of our algorithms is also demonstrated through analysis of a real data set. A software package implementing the empirical Bayesian algorithms in this paper is freely available upon request. CONCLUSIONS: The EBLASSO logistic regression method can handle a large number of effects possibly including the main and epistatic QTL effects, environmental effects and the effects of gene-environment interactions. It will be a very useful tool for multiple QTLs mapping for complex binary traits.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Logistic regression, Genetics, Classical genetics, Quantitative trait locus, Amplified fragment length polymorphism, Epistasis, Statistical genetics


Resistance of eggplant against Ralstonia solanacearum phylotype I strains was assessed in a F(6) population of recombinant inbred lines (RILs) derived from a intra-specific cross between S. melongena MM738 (susceptible) and AG91-25 (resistant). Resistance traits were determined as disease score, percentage of wilted plants, and stem-based bacterial colonization index, as assessed in greenhouse experiments conducted in Réunion Island, France. The AG91-25 resistance was highly efficient toward strains CMR134, PSS366 and GMI1000, but only partial toward the highly virulent strain PSS4. The partial resistance found against PSS4 was overcome under high inoculation pressure, with heritability estimates from 0.28 to 0.53, depending on the traits and season. A genetic map was built with 119 AFLP, SSR and SRAP markers positioned on 18 linkage groups (LG), for a total length of 884 cM, and used for quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis. A major dominant gene, named ERs1, controlled the resistance to strains CMR134, PSS366, and GMI1000. Against strain PSS4, this gene was not detected, but a significant QTL involved in delay of disease progress was detected on another LG. The possible use of the major resistance gene ERs1 in marker-assisted selection and the prospects offered for academic studies of a possible gene for gene system controlling resistance to bacterial wilt in solanaceous plants are discussed.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Classical genetics, Quantitative trait locus, Genetic linkage, William Bateson, Amplified fragment length polymorphism, Epistasis


The genus Wolffia of the duckweed family (Lemnaceae) contains the smallest flowering plants. Presently, 11 species are recognized and categorized mainly on the basis of morphology. Because of extreme reduction of structure of all species, molecular methods are especially required for barcoding and identification of species and clones of this genus. We applied AFLP combined with Bayesian analysis of population structure to 66 clones covering all 11 species. Nine clusters were identified: (1) W. angusta and W. microscopica (only one clone), (2) W. arrhiza, (3) W. cylindracea (except one clone that might be a transition form), (4) W. australiana, (5) W. globosa, (6) W. globosa, W. neglecta, and W. borealis, (7) W. brasiliensis, and W. columbiana, (8) W. columbiana, (9) W. elongata. Furthermore, we investigated the sequences of plastidic regions rps16 (54 clones) and rpl16 (55 clones), and identified the following species: W. angusta, W. australiana, W. brasiliensis, W. cylindracea, W. elongata, W. microscopica, and W. neglecta. Wolffia globosa has been separated into two groups by both methods. One group which consists only of clones from North America and East Asia was labelled here “typical W. globosa”. The other group of W. globosa, termed operationally “W. neglecta”, contains also clones of W. neglecta and shows high similarity to W. borealis. None of the methods recognized W. borealis as a distinct species. Although each clone could be characterized individually by AFLP and plastidic sequences, and most species could be bar-coded, the presently available data are not sufficient to identify all taxa of Wolffia.

Concepts: Molecular biology, Biology, Species, Bayesian inference, Amplified fragment length polymorphism, Spirodela, Wolffia, Lemnaoideae


Paulownia witches' broom (PaWB) caused by phytoplasma might result in devastating damage to the growth and wood production of Paulownia. To study the effect of phytoplasma on DNA sequence and to discover the genes related to PaWB occurrence, DNA polymorphisms and DNA methylation levels and patterns in PaWB seedlings, the ones treated with various concentration of methyl methane sulfonate (MMS) and healthy seedlings were investigated with amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) and methylation-sensitive amplification polymorphism (MSAP). Our results indicated that PaWB seedlings recovered a normal morphology, similar to healthy seedlings, after treatment with more than 20 mg·L-1 MMS; Phytoplasma infection did not change the Paulownia genomic DNA sequence at AFLP level, but changed the global DNA methylation levels and patterns; Genes related to PaWB were discovered through MSAP and validated using quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). These results implied that changes of DNA methylation levels and patterns were closely related to the morphological changes of seedlings infected with phytoplasmas.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Polymerase chain reaction, Molecular biology, DNA methylation, Change, Amplified fragment length polymorphism, Phytoplasma


Aechmea subgenus Ortgiesia comprises ca. 20 species distributed in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, with a center of diversity in the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest. We examined interspecific relationships of Ortgiesia based on Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms (AFLP). Ninety-six accessions belonging to 14 species of Ortgiesia were sampled, and genotyped with 11 AFLP primer combinations. The neighbor joining (NJ) tree depicted two main genetic groups within Aechmea subgenus Ortgiesia, and four subgroups. The NJ tree showed short internal branches, indicating an overall shallow genetic divergence among Ortgiesia species as expected for the recently radiated subfamily Bromelioideae. Our results suggest that hybridization and / or incomplete lineage sorting may have hampered the reconstruction of interspecific relationships in Aechmea subgenus Ortgiesia. The mapping of petal color (yellow, blue, pink, or white), inflorescence type (simple or compound), and inflorescence shape (ellipsoid, subcylindric, cylindric, or pyramidal) against the NJ tree indicated that these characters are of limited taxonomic use in Aechmea subgenus Ortgiesia due to homoplasy. An analysis of the current distribution of Ortgiesia identified the southern region of the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest, between latitudes of 26° and 27° S, as the center of diversity for the subgenus.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Species, Brazil, Taxonomic rank, Amplified fragment length polymorphism, Argentina, Bromeliaceae, Aechmea


Different studies have suggested that the sand of public playgrounds could have a role in the transmission of infections, particularly in children. Furthermore, free access of pets and other animals to the playgrounds might increase such a risk. We studied the presence of Clostridium difficile in 20 pairs of sandboxes for children and dogs located in different playgrounds within the Madrid region (Spain). Clostridium difficile isolation was performed by enrichment and selective culture procedures. The genetic (ribotype and amplified fragment length polymorphism [AFLP]) diversity and antibiotic susceptibility of isolates was also studied. Overall, 52.5% (21/40) of samples were positive for the presence of C. difficile. Eight of the 20 available isolates belonged to the toxigenic ribotypes 014 (n = 5) and 106 (n = 2), both regarded as epidemic, and CD047 (n = 1). The other 12 isolates were non-toxigenic, and belonged to ribotypes 009 (n = 5), 039 (n = 4), and 067, 151 and CD048 (one isolate each). Nevertheless, all isolates (even those of a same ribotype) were classified into different AFLP genotypes indicating non-relatedness. In conclusion, our results revealed the presence of epidemic ribotypes of C. difficile in children’s and dog’s sandboxes located nearby, which constitutes a major health risk.

Concepts: Genetics, Antibiotic, Clostridium difficile, Amplified fragment length polymorphism, Dog, Clostridium, Playground, Madrid


Pathogen exposure to sublethal doses of fungicides may result in mutations that may represent an important and largely overlooked mechanism of introducing new genetic variation into strictly clonal populations, including acquisition of fungicide resistance. We tested this hypothesis using the clonal plant pathogen, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. Nine susceptible isolates were exposed independently to five commercial fungicides with different modes of action: boscalid (respiration inhibitor), iprodione (unclear mode of action), thiophanate methyl (inhibition of microtubulin synthesis) and azoxystrobin and pyraclostrobin (quinone outside inhibitors). Mycelium of each isolate was inoculated onto a fungicide gradient and sub-cultured from the 50-100% inhibition zone for 12 generations and experiment repeated. Mutational changes were assessed for all isolates at six neutral microsatellite (SSR) loci and for a subset of isolates using amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs). SSR analysis showed 12 of 85 fungicide-exposed isolates had a total of 127 stepwise mutations with 42 insertions and 85 deletions. Most stepwise deletions were in iprodione- and azoxystrobin-exposed isolates (n = 40/85 each). Estimated mutation rates were 1.7 to 60-fold higher for mutated loci compared to that expected under neutral conditions. AFLP genotyping of 33 isolates (16 non-exposed control and 17 fungicide exposed) generated 602 polymorphic alleles. Cluster analysis with principal coordinate analysis (PCoA) and discriminant analysis of principal components (DAPC) identified fungicide-exposed isolates as a distinct group from non-exposed control isolates (PhiPT = 0.15, P = 0.001). Dendrograms based on neighbor-joining also supported allelic variation associated with fungicide-exposure. Fungicide sensitivity of isolates measured throughout both experiments did not show consistent trends. For example, eight isolates exposed to boscalid had higher EC50 values at the end of the experiment, and when repeated, only one isolate had higher EC50 while most isolates showed no difference. Results of this support the hypothesis that sublethal fungicide stress increases mutation rates in a largely clonal plant pathogen under in vitro conditions. Collectively, this work will aid our understanding how non-lethal fungicide exposure may affect genomic variation, which may be an important mechanism of novel trait emergence, adaptation, and evolution for clonal organisms.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Mutation, Natural selection, Evolution, Amplified fragment length polymorphism, Mutation rate, Fungicide


Height is one of the most heritable and easily measured traits in maize (Zea mays L.). Given a pedigree or estimates of the genomic identity-by-state among related plants, height is also accurately predictable. But, mapping alleles explaining natural variation in maize height remains a formidable challenge. To address this challenge, we measured the plant height, ear height, flowering time, and node counts of plants grown in over 64,500 plots across 13 environments. These plots contained over 7,300 inbreds representing most publically available maize inbreds in the U.S. and families of the maize Nested Association Mapping (NAM) panel. Joint-linkage mapping of quantitative trait loci (QTL), fine mapping in near isogenic lines (NILs), genome wide association studies (GWAS), and genomic best linear unbiased prediction (GBLUP) were performed. The heritability of maize height was estimated to be over 90%. Mapping NAM family-nested QTL revealed the largest explained 2.1±0.9% of height variation. The effects of two tropical alleles at this QTL were independently validated by fine mapping in NIL families. Several significant associations found by GWAS co-localized with established height loci including brassinosteroid-deficient dwarf1, dwarf plant1, and semi-dwarf2. GBLUP explained over 80% of height variation in the panels and outperformed bootstrap aggregation of family-nested QTL models in evaluations of prediction accuracy. These results revealed maize height was under strong genetic control and had a highly polygenic genetic architecture. They also showed multiple models of genetic architecture differing in polygenicity and effect sizes can plausibly explain a population’s variation in maize height; but may vary in predictive efficacy.

Concepts: Scientific method, Gene, Genetics, Classical genetics, Quantitative trait locus, Maize, Amplified fragment length polymorphism, Epistasis


According to the Norwegian Diversity Act, practitioners of restoration in Norway are instructed to use seed mixtures of local provenance. However, there are no guidelines for how local seed should be selected. In this study, we use genetic variation in a set of alpine species (Agrostis mertensii, Avenella flexuosa, Carex bigelowii, Festuca ovina, Poa alpina and Scorzoneroides autumnalis) to define seed transfer zones to reduce confusion about the definition of ‘local seeds’. The species selected for the study are common in all parts of Norway and suitable for commercial seed production. The sampling covered the entire alpine region (7-20 populations per species, 3-15 individuals per population). We characterised genetic diversity using amplified fragment length polymorphisms. We identified different spatial genetic diversity structures in the species, most likely related to differences in reproductive strategies, phylogeographic factors and geographic distribution. Based on results from all species, we suggest four general seed transfer zones for alpine Norway. This is likely more conservative than needed for all species, given that no species show more than two genetic groups. Even so, the approach is practical as four seed mixtures will serve the need for restoration of vegetation in alpine regions in Norway.

Concepts: DNA, Reproduction, Biodiversity, Evolution, Biology, Meaning of life, Population genetics, Amplified fragment length polymorphism