High diversity due to balancing selection in the promoter region of the medea gene in Arabidopsis lyrata

Akira Kawabe, Ryo Fujimoto, Deborah Charlesworth

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Molecular imprinting is the differential expression and/or silencing of alleles according to their parent of origin [1, 2]. Conflicts between parents, or parents and offspring, should cause "arms races," with accelerated evolution of the genes involved in imprinting. This should be detectable in the evolution of imprinting genes' protein sequences and in the promoter regions of imprinted genes. Previous studies, however, found no evidence of more amino acid substitutions in imprinting genes [1, 3]. We have analyzed sequence diversity of the Arabidopsis lyrata Medea (MEA) gene and divergence from the A. thaliana sequence, including the first study of the promoter region. In A. thaliana, MEA is imprinted, with paternal alleles silenced in endosperm cells [4, 5], and also functions in the imprinting machinery [4, 6]; MEA protein binding at the MEA promoter region indicates self-regulated imprinting [7-9]. We find the same paternal MEA allele silencing in A. lyrata endosperm but no evidence for adaptive evolution in the coding region, whereas the 5' flanking region displays high diversity, with distinct haplotypes, suggesting balancing selection in the promoter region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1885-1889
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2007

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