1 National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Technical University of Denmark2 Section for Marine Living Resources, National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Technical University of Denmark3 Aarhus University4 BGI-Shenzhen
Background: The threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) has become an important model species for studying both contemporary and parallel evolution. In particular, differential adaptation to freshwater and marine environments has led to high differentiation between freshwater and marine stickleback populations at the phenotypic trait of lateral plate morphology and the underlying candidate gene Ectodysplacin (EDA). Many studies have focused on this trait and candidate gene, although other genes involved in marine-freshwater adaptation may be equally important. In order to develop a resource for rapid and cost efficient analysis of genetic divergence between freshwater and marine sticklebacks, we generated a low-density SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) array encompassing markers of chromosome regions under putative directional selection, along with neutral markers for background. Results: RAD (Restriction site Associated DNA) sequencing of sixty individuals representing two freshwater and one marine population led to the identification of 33,993 SNP markers. Ninety-six of these were chosen for the low-density SNP array, among which 70 represented SNPs under putatively directional selection in freshwater vs. marine environments, whereas 26 SNPs were assumed to be neutral. Annotation of these regions revealed several genes that are candidates for affecting stickleback phenotypic variation, some of which have been observed in previous studies whereas others are new. Conclusions: We have developed a cost-efficient low-density SNP array that allows for rapid screening of polymorphisms in threespine stickleback. The array provides a valuable tool for analyzing adaptive divergence between freshwater and marine stickleback populations beyond the well-established candidate gene Ectodysplacin (EDA).