Nucleotide polymorphism at a gene (Pgi) under balancing selection in a butterfly metapopulation

Christopher W. Wheat, Christoph R. Haag, James H. Marden, Ilkka Hanski, Mikko J. Frilander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The Glanville fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia, Nymphalidae) has a large, well-studied metapopulation in the land Islands in Finland. Previous studies have found that the common allozyme genotypes at the phosphoglucose isomerase (PGI) locus are associated with individual variation in performance and fitness, with phenotypic data suggesting ongoing balancing selection via heterozygote advantage. Here, we analyze nucleotide polymorphism in the coding region of the Pgi gene. Pgi is exceptionally polymorphic, in contrast to three other metabolic genes (Mdh, Idh, and Gapdh) with low levels of polymorphism. Most of the variation is due to two common haplotype clades, which are highly divergent and exhibit extensive linkage disequilibrium. These two clades correspond to the two most common allozyme alleles previously studied. Molecular tests of selection and coalescence simulations indicate that patterns of nucleotide polymorphism depart from neutrality and are consistent with long-term balancing selection. The split between the two main haplotype clades is estimated to predate the last common ancestor of a clade of five extant Melitaea species. Comparative structural analysis of Pgi polymorphism in M. cinxia and the unrelated Colias eurytheme butterfly suggests a similar but not identical target of balancing selection. Our results indicate convergent evolution between these two species at both the phenotypic and molecular levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-281
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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