Bernhardsson C, Ingvarsson PK
Molecular Population Genetics of Elicitor-Induced Resistance Genes in European Aspen (Populus tremula L., Salicaceae)
PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e24867. Epub 2011 Sep 19.

Abstract
Owing to their long life span and ecological dominance in many communities, forest trees are subject to attack from a diverse array of herbivores throughout their range, and have therefore developed a large number of both constitutive and inducible defenses. We used molecular population genetics methods to examine the evolution of eight genes in European aspen, Populus tremula, that are all associated with defensive responses against pests and/or pathogens, and have earlier been shown to become strongly up-regulated in poplars as a response to wounding and insect herbivory. Our results show that the majority of these defense genes show patterns of intraspecific polymorphism and site-frequency spectra that are consistent with a neutral model of evolution. However, two of the genes, both belonging to a small gene family of polyphenol oxidases, show multiple deviations from the neutral model. The gene PPO1 has a 600 bp region with a highly elevated K(A)/K(S) ratio and reduced synonymous diversity. PPO1 also shows a skew toward intermediate frequency variants in the SFS, and a pronounced fixation of non-synonymous mutations, all pointing to the fact that PPO1 has been subjected to recurrent selective sweeps. The gene PPO2 shows a marked excess of high frequency, derived variants and shows many of the same trends as PPO1 does, even though the pattern is less pronounced, suggesting that PPO2 might have been the target of a recent selective sweep. Our results supports data from both Populus and other species which have found that the the majority of defense-associated genes show few signs of selection but that a number of genes involved in mediating defense against herbivores show signs of adaptive evolution.

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