Genome-wide patterns of latitudinal differentiation among populations of Drosophila melanogaster from North America

Mol Ecol. 2012 Oct;21(19):4748-69. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05731.x. Epub 2012 Aug 22.


Understanding the genetic underpinnings of adaptive change is a fundamental but largely unresolved problem in evolutionary biology. Drosophila melanogaster, an ancestrally tropical insect that has spread to temperate regions and become cosmopolitan, offers a powerful opportunity for identifying the molecular polymorphisms underlying clinal adaptation. Here, we use genome-wide next-generation sequencing of DNA pools ('pool-seq') from three populations collected along the North American east coast to examine patterns of latitudinal differentiation. Comparing the genomes of these populations is particularly interesting since they exhibit clinal variation in a number of important life history traits. We find extensive latitudinal differentiation, with many of the most strongly differentiated genes involved in major functional pathways such as the insulin/TOR, ecdysone, torso, EGFR, TGFβ/BMP, JAK/STAT, immunity and circadian rhythm pathways. We observe particularly strong differentiation on chromosome 3R, especially within the cosmopolitan inversion In(3R)Payne, which contains a large number of clinally varying genes. While much of the differentiation might be driven by clinal differences in the frequency of In(3R)P, we also identify genes that are likely independent of this inversion. Our results provide genome-wide evidence consistent with pervasive spatially variable selection acting on numerous loci and pathways along the well-known North American cline, with many candidates implicated in life history regulation and exhibiting parallel differentiation along the previously investigated Australian cline.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Australia
  • Chromosome Inversion*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genes, Insect
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation
  • North America
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA