Wallberg A, Schöning C, Webster MT, Hasselmann M
PLoS Genet 13 (5) e1006792 [2017-05-00; online 2017-05-25]
Understanding the genetic basis of adaption is a central task in biology. Populations of the honey bee Apis mellifera that inhabit the mountain forests of East Africa differ in behavior and morphology from those inhabiting the surrounding lowland savannahs, which likely reflects adaptation to these habitats. We performed whole genome sequencing on 39 samples of highland and lowland bees from two pairs of populations to determine their evolutionary affinities and identify the genetic basis of these putative adaptations. We find that in general, levels of genetic differentiation between highland and lowland populations are very low, consistent with them being a single panmictic population. However, we identify two loci on chromosomes 7 and 9, each several hundred kilobases in length, which exhibit near fixation for different haplotypes between highland and lowland populations. The highland haplotypes at these loci are extremely rare in samples from the rest of the world. Patterns of segregation of genetic variants suggest that recombination between haplotypes at each locus is suppressed, indicating that they comprise independent structural variants. The haplotype on chromosome 7 harbors nearly all octopamine receptor genes in the honey bee genome. These have a role in learning and foraging behavior in honey bees and are strong candidates for adaptation to highland habitats. Molecular analysis of a putative breakpoint indicates that it may disrupt the coding sequence of one of these genes. Divergence between the highland and lowland haplotypes at both loci is extremely high suggesting that they are ancient balanced polymorphisms that greatly predate divergence between the extant honey bee subspecies.