Vast amounts of effort have been devoted to investigate patterns of genetic diversity and structuring in plants and animals, but similar information is scarce for organisms of other kingdoms. The study of the genetic structure of natural populations of wild yeasts can provide insights into the ecological and genetic correlates of clonality, and into the generality of recent hypotheses postulating that microbial populations lack the potential for genetic divergence and allopatric speciation. Ninety-one isolates of the flower-living yeast Metschnikowia gruessii from southeastern Spain were DNA fingerprinted using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers. Genetic diversity and structuring was investigated with band-based methods and model- and nonmodel-based clustering. Linkage disequilibrium tests were used to assess reproduction mode. Microsite-dependent, diversifying selection was tested by comparing genetic characteristics of isolates from bumble bee vectors and different floral microsites. AFLP polymorphism (91%) and genotypic diversity were very high. Genetic diversity was spatially structured, as shown by amova (Φst = 0.155) and clustering. The null hypothesis of random mating was rejected, clonality seeming the prevailing reproductive mode in the populations studied. Genetic diversity of isolates declined from bumble bee mouthparts to floral microsites, and frequency of five AFLP markers varied significantly across floral microsites, thus supporting the hypothesis of diversifying selection on clonal lineages. Wild populations of clonal fungal microbes can exhibit levels of genetic diversity and spatial structuring that are not singularly different from those shown by sexually reproducing plants or animals. Microsite-dependent, divergent selection can maintain high local and regional genetic diversity in microbial populations despite extensive clonality.
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