A genome-wide survey of genetic variation in gorillas using reduced representation sequencing

A genome-wide survey of genetic variation in gorillas using reduced representation sequencing
Aylwyn Scally, Bryndis Yngvadottir, Yali Xue, Qasim Ayub, Richard Durbin, Chris Tyler-Smith
(Submitted on 9 Jan 2013)

All non-human great apes are endangered in the wild, and it is therefore important to gain an understanding of their demography and genetic diversity. To date, however, genetic studies within these species have largely been confined to mitochondrial DNA and a small number of other loci. Here, we present a genome-wide survey of genetic variation in gorillas using a reduced representation sequencing approach, focusing on the two lowland subspecies. We identify 3,274,491 polymorphic sites in 14 individuals: 12 western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and 2 eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri). We find that the two species are genetically distinct, based on levels of heterozygosity and patterns of allele sharing. Focusing on the western lowland population, we observe evidence for population substructure, and a deficit of rare genetic variants suggesting a recent episode of population contraction. In western lowland gorillas, there is an elevation of variation towards telomeres and centromeres on the chromosomal scale. On a finer scale, we find substantial variation in genetic diversity, including a marked reduction close to the major histocompatibility locus, perhaps indicative of recent strong selection there. These findings suggest that despite their maintaining an overall level of genetic diversity equal to or greater than that of humans, population decline, perhaps associated with disease, has been a significant factor in recent and long-term pressures on wild gorilla populations.

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