Environmental adaptation contributes to gene polymorphism across the Arabidopsis thaliana genome.
The level of within-species polymorphism differs greatly among genes in a genome. Many genomic studies have investigated the relationship between gene polymorphism and factors such as recombination rate or expression pattern. However, the polymorphism of a gene is affected not only by its physical properties or functional constraints but also by natural selection on organisms in their environments. Specifically, if functionally divergent alleles enable adaptation to different environments, locus-specific polymorphism may be maintained by spatially heterogeneous natural selection. To test this hypothesis and estimate the extent to which environmental selection shapes the pattern of genome-wide polymorphism, we define the "environmental relevance" of a gene as the proportion of genetic variation explained by environmental factors, after controlling for population structure. We found substantial effects of environmental relevance on patterns of polymorphism among genes. In addition, the correlation between environmental relevance and gene polymorphism is positive, consistent with the expectation that balancing selection among heterogeneous environments maintains genetic variation at ecologically important genes. Comparison of the gene ontology annotations shows that genes with high environmental relevance are enriched in unknown function categories. These results suggest an important role for environmental factors in shaping genome-wide patterns of polymorphism and indicate another direction of genomic study.
Lee, C-R; Mitchell-Olds, T
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