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Open Access Research article

Evolutionary factors affecting Lactate dehydrogenase A and B variation in the Daphnia pulex species complex

Teresa J Crease1*, Robin Floyd14, Melania E Cristescu2 and David Innes3

Author affiliations

1 Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada

2 Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario N9B 3P4, Canada

3 Department of Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador A1B 3X9, Canada

4 School of Clinical Sciences, Southmead Hospital, University of Bristol, Bristol BS105NB, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:212  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-212

Published: 18 July 2011

Abstract

Background

Evidence for historical, demographic and selective factors affecting enzyme evolution can be obtained by examining nucleotide sequence variation in candidate genes such as Lactate dehydrogenase (Ldh). Two closely related Daphnia species can be distinguished by their electrophoretic Ldh genotype and habitat. Daphnia pulex populations are fixed for the S allele and inhabit temporary ponds, while D. pulicaria populations are fixed for the F allele and inhabit large stratified lakes. One locus is detected in most allozyme surveys, but genome sequencing has revealed two genes, LdhA and LdhB.

Results

We sequenced both Ldh genes from 70 isolates of these two species from North America to determine if the association between Ldh genotype and habitat shows evidence for selection, and to elucidate the evolutionary history of the two genes. We found that alleles in the pond-dwelling D. pulex and in the lake-dwelling D. pulicaria form distinct groups at both loci, and the substitution of Glutamine (S) for Glutamic acid (F) at amino acid 229 likely causes the electrophoretic mobility shift in the LDHA protein. Nucleotide diversity in both Ldh genes is much lower in D. pulicaria than in D. pulex. Moreover, the lack of spatial structuring of the variation in both genes over a wide geographic area is consistent with a recent demographic expansion of lake populations. Neutrality tests indicate that both genes are under purifying selection, but the intensity is much stronger on LdhA.

Conclusions

Although lake-dwelling D. pulicaria hybridizes with the other lineages in the pulex species complex, it remains distinct ecologically and genetically. This ecological divergence, coupled with the intensity of purifying selection on LdhA and the strong association between its genotype and habitat, suggests that experimental studies would be useful to determine if variation in molecular function provides evidence that LDHA variants are adaptive.