Intermediate outcrossing rates are theoretically predicted to maintain effective selection against harmful alleles, but few studies have empirically tested this prediction with the use of genomic data.

Benjamin Laenen, Andrew Tedder, Michael D. Nowak, Per Toräng, Jörg Wunder, Stefan Wötzel, Kim A. Steige, Yiannis Kourmpetis, Thomas Odong, Andreas D. Drouzas, Marco C. A. M. Bink, Jon Ågren, George Coupland, and Tanja Slotte

PNAS January 23 2018; vol. 115; no. 4: 816-821

 

Significance

 

Intermediate outcrossing rates are theoretically predicted to maintain effective selection against harmful alleles, but few studies have empirically tested this prediction with the use of genomic data. We used whole-genome resequencing data from alpine rock-cress to study how genetic variation and purifying selection vary with mating system. We find that populations with intermediate outcrossing rates have similar levels of genetic diversity as outcrossing populations, and that purifying selection against harmful alleles is efficient in mixed-mating populations. In contrast, self-fertilizing populations from Scandinavia have strongly reduced genetic diversity and accumulate harmful mutations, likely as a result of demographic effects of postglacial colonization. Our results suggest that mixed-mating populations can avoid some of the negative evolutionary consequences of high self-fertilization rates.

 

Abstract

 

Plant mating systems have profound effects on levels and structuring of genetic variation and can affect the impact of natural selection. Although theory predicts that intermediate outcrossing rates may allow plants to prevent accumulation of deleterious alleles, few studies have empirically tested this prediction using genomic data. Here, we study the effect of mating system on purifying selection by conducting population-genomic analyses on whole-genome resequencing data from 38 European individuals of the arctic-alpine crucifer Arabis alpina. We find that outcrossing and mixed-mating populations maintain genetic diversity at similar levels, whereas highly self-fertilizing Scandinavian A. alpina show a strong reduction in genetic diversity, most likely as a result of a postglacial colonization bottleneck. We further find evidence for accumulation of genetic load in highly self-fertilizing populations, whereas the genome-wide impact of purifying selection does not differ greatly between mixed-mating and outcrossing populations. Our results demonstrate that intermediate levels of outcrossing may allow efficient selection against harmful alleles, whereas demographic effects can be important for relaxed purifying selection in highly selfing populations. Thus, mating system and demography shape the impact of purifying selection on genomic variation in A. alpina. These results are important for an improved understanding of the evolutionary consequences of mating system variation and the maintenance of mixed-mating strategies.

 

See http://www.pnas.org/content/115/4/816.full