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Keywords:

  • autocorrelation;
  • frequency-dependent selection;
  • gene dispersal;
  • isolation by distance;
  • kinship coefficient;
  • spatial genetic structure

Abstract

Gametophytic self-incompatibility (SI) systems in plants exhibit high polymorphism at the SI controlling S-locus because individuals with rare alleles have a higher probability to successfully pollinate other plants than individuals with more frequent alleles. This process, referred to as frequency-dependent selection, is expected to shape number, frequency distribution, and spatial distribution of self-incompatibility alleles in natural populations. We investigated the genetic diversity and the spatial genetic structure within a Prunus avium population at two contrasting gene loci: nuclear microsatellites and the S-locus. The S-locus revealed a higher diversity (15 alleles) than the eight microsatellites (4–12 alleles). Although the frequency distribution of S-alleles differed significantly from the expected equal distribution, the S-locus showed a higher evenness than the microsatellites (Shannon's evenness index for the S-locus: E = 0.91; for the microsatellites: E = 0.48–0.83). Also, highly significant deviations from neutrality were found for the S-locus whereas only minor deviations were found for two of eight microsatellites. A comparison of the frequency distribution of S-alleles in three age-cohorts revealed no significant differences, suggesting that different levels of selection acting on the S-locus or on S-linked sites might also affect the distribution and dynamics of S-alleles. Autocorrelation analysis revealed a weak but significant spatial genetic structure for the multilocus average of the microsatellites and for the S-locus, but could not ascertain differences in the extent of spatial genetic structure between these locus types. An indirect estimate of gene dispersal, which was obtained to explain this spatial genetic pattern, indicated high levels of gene dispersal within our population (σg = 106 m). This high gene dispersal, which may be partly due to the self-incompatibility system itself, aids the effective gene flow of the microsatellites, thereby decreasing the contrast between the neutral microsatellites and the S-locus.