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Keywords:

  • Daphnia magna ;
  • genotyping;
  • natural selection;
  • population sequencing;
  • protease;
  • single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)

Abstract

Determining genetic variation at the DNA level within and between natural populations is important for understanding the role of natural selection on phenotypic traits, but many techniques of screening for genetic variation are either cost intensive, not sensitive enough or too labour- and time-consuming. Here, we demonstrate high-resolution melting analysis (HRMA) as a cost-effective and powerful tool for screening variable target genes in natural populations. HRMA is based on monitoring the melting of PCR amplicons. Owing to saturating concentrations of a dye that binds at high concentrations to double-stranded DNA, it is possible to genotype high numbers of samples rapidly and accurately. We analysed digestive trypsins of two Daphnia magna populations as an application example for HRMA. One population originated from a pond containing toxic cyanobacteria that possibly produce protease inhibitors and the other from a pond without such cyanobacteria. The hypothesis was that D. magna clones from ponds with cyanobacteria have undergone selection by these inhibitors, which has led to different trypsin alleles. We first sequenced pooled genomic PCR products of trypsins from both populations to identify variable DNA sequences of active trypsins. Second, we screened variable DNA sequences of each D. magna clone from both populations for single nucleotide polymorphisms via HRMA. The HRMA results revealed that both populations exhibited phenotypic differences in the analysed trypsins. Our results indicate that HRMA is a powerful genotyping tool for studying the variation of target genes in response to selection within and between natural Daphnia populations.