Identifying footprints of directional and balancing selection in marine and freshwater three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) populations

Mol Ecol. 2008 Aug;17(15):3565-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2008.03714.x.


Natural selection is expected to leave an imprint on the neutral polymorphisms at the adjacent genomic regions of a selected gene. While directional selection tends to reduce within-population genetic diversity and increase among-population differentiation, the reverse is expected under balancing selection. To identify targets of natural selection in the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) genome, 103 microsatellite and two indel markers including expressed sequence tags (EST) and quantitative trait loci (QTL)-associated loci, were genotyped in four freshwater and three marine populations. The results indicated that a high proportion of loci (14.7%) might be affected by balancing selection and a lower proportion (2.8%) by directional selection. The strongest signatures of directional selection were detected in a microsatellite locus and two indel markers located in the intronic regions of the Eda-gene coding for the number of lateral plates. Yet, other microsatellite loci previously found to be informative in QTL-mapping studies revealed no signatures of selection. Two novel microsatellite loci (Stn12 and Stn90) located in chromosomes I and VIII, respectively, showed signals of directional selection and might be linked to genomic regions containing gene(s) important for adaptive divergence. Although the coverage of the total genomic content was relatively low, the predominance of balancing selection signals is in agreement with the contention that balancing, rather than directional selection is the predominant mode of selection in the wild.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Expressed Sequence Tags
  • Fresh Water*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Geography
  • Microsatellite Repeats / genetics
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / genetics
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries
  • Seawater*
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Smegmamorpha / classification
  • Smegmamorpha / genetics*