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Open Access Research article

A major QTL affects temperature sensitive adult lethality and inbreeding depression in life span in Drosophila melanogaster

Cornelis J Vermeulen1*, R Bijlsma2 and Volker Loeschcke1

Author Affiliations

1 Ecology and Genetics, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Aarhus, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

2 Population & Conservation Genetics, Evolutionary Genetics, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 14, 9750 AA Haren, Netherlands

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:297  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-297

Published: 28 October 2008

Abstract

Background

The study of inbreeding depression has major relevance for many disciplines, including conservation genetics and evolutionary biology. Still, the molecular genetic basis of this phenomenon remains poorly characterised, as knowledge on the mechanistic causes of inbreeding depression and the molecular properties of genes that give rise to or modulate its deleterious effects is lacking. These questions warrant the detailed study of genetic loci giving rise to inbreeding depression. However, the complex and polygenic nature of general inbreeding depression makes this a daunting task. Study of inbreeding effects in specific traits, such as age-specific mortality and life span, provide a good starting point, as a limited set of genes is expected to be involved.

Results

Here we report on a QTL mapping study on inbreeding related and temperature sensitive lethality in male Drosophila melanogaster. The inbreeding effect was expressed at moderately high temperature, and manifested itself as severe premature mortality in males, but not in females. We used a North Carolina crossing design 3 to estimate average dominance ratio and heritability. We found the genetic basis of the lethal effect to be relatively simple, being due mainly to a single recessive QTL on the left arm of chromosome 2. This locus colocalised with a QTL that conditioned variation in female life span, acting as an overdominant locus for this trait. Male life span was additionally affected by variation at the X-chromosome.

Conclusion

This demonstrates that analysis of large conditional lethal effects is a viable strategy for delineating genes which are sensitive to inbreeding depression.