No evidence for the ‘Meselson effect’ in parthenogenetic oribatid mites (Oribatida, Acari)


Mark Maraun, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Institut für Zoologie, Schnittspahnstrasse 3, 64287 Darmstadt, Germany.
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It has been hypothesized that in ancient apomictic, nonrecombining lineages the two alleles of a single copy gene will become highly divergent as a result of the independent accumulation of mutations (Meselson effect). We used a partial sequence of the elongation factor-1α (ef-1α) and the heat shock protein 82 (hsp82) genes to test this hypothesis for putative ancient parthenogenetic oribatid mite lineages. In addition, we tested if the hsp82 gene is fully transcribed by sequencing the cDNA and we also tested if there is evidence for recombination and gene conversion in sexual and parthenogenetic oribatid mite species. The average maximum intra-specific divergence in the ef-1α was 2.7% in three parthenogenetic species and 8.6% in three sexual species; the average maximum intra-individual genetic divergence was 0.9% in the parthenogenetic and 6.0% in the sexual species. In the hsp82 gene the average maximum intra-individual genetic divergence in the sexual species Steganacarus magnus and in the parthenogenetic species Platynothrus peltifer was 1.1% and 1.2%, respectively. None of the differences were statistically significant. The cDNA data indicated that the hsp82 sequence is transcribed and intron-free. Likelihood permutation tests indicate that ef-1α has undergone recombination in all three studied sexual species and gene conversion in two of the sexual species, but neither process has occurred in any of the parthenogenetic species. No evidence for recombination or gene conversion was found for sexual or parthenogenetic oribatid mite species in the hsp 82 gene. There appears to be no Meselson effect in parthenogenetic oribatid mite species. Presumably, their low genetic divergence is due to automixis, other homogenizing mechanisms or strong selection to keep both the ef-1α and the hsp82 gene functioning.