Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Applications of gene sequence polymorphisms in evolutionary genetic studies of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and other teleost fish species

Heikki Ryynänen

Doctoral dissertation, October 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biosciences, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

Evolutionary genetics incorporates traditional population genetics and studies of the origins of genetic variation by mutation and recombination, and the molecular evolution of genomes. Among the primary forces that have potential to affect the genetic variation within and among populations, including those that may lead to adaptation and speciation, are genetic drift, gene flow, mutations and natural selection. The main challenges in knowing the genetic basis of evolutionary changes is to distinguish the adaptive selection forces that cause existent DNA sequence variants and also to identify the nucleotide differences responsible for the observed phenotypic variation. To understand the effects of various forces, interpretation of gene sequence variation has been the principal basis of many evolutionary genetic studies.

The main aim of this thesis was to assess different forms of teleost gene sequence polymorphisms in evolutionary genetic studies of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and other species. Firstly, the level of Darwinian adaptive evolution affected coding regions of the growth hormone (GH) gene during the teleost evolution was investigated based on the sequence data existing in public databases. Secondly, a target gene approach was used to identify within population variation in the growth hormone 1 (GH1) gene in salmon. Then, a new strategy for single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) discovery in salmonid fishes was introduced, and, finally, the usefulness of a limited number of SNP markers as molecular tools in several applications of population genetics in Atlantic salmon was assessed.

This thesis showed that the gene sequences in databases can be utilized to perform comparative studies of molecular evolution, and some putative evidence of the existence of Darwinian selection during the teleost GH evolution was presented. In addition, existent sequence data was exploited to investigate GH1 gene variation within Atlantic salmon populations throughout its range. Purifying selection is suggested to be the predominant evolutionary force controlling the genetic variation of this gene in salmon, and some support for gene flow between continents was also observed. The novel approach to SNP discovery in species with duplicated genome fragments introduced here proved to be an effective method, and this may have several applications in evolutionary genetics with different species - e.g. when developing gene-targeted markers to investigate quantitative genetic variation. The thesis also demonstrated that only a few SNPs performed highly similar signals in some of the population genetic analyses when compared with the microsatellite markers. This may have useful applications when estimating genetic diversity in genes having a potential role in ecological and conservation issues, or when using hard biological samples in genetic studies as SNPs can be applied with relatively highly degraded DNA.

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Last updated 06.10.2006

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