Effective population size as a driver for divergence of an antimicrobial peptide (Hymenoptaecin) in two common European bumblebee species
Social insects are the target of numerous pathogens. This is because the high density of closely-related individuals frequently interacting with each other enhances the transmission and establishment of pathogens. This high selective pressure results in the rapid evolution of immune genes, which might be counteracted by a reduced effective population size (Ne) lowering the effectiveness of selection. We tested the effect of Ne on the evolutionary rate of an important immune gene for the antimicrobial peptide Hymenoptaecin in two common central European bumblebee species: Bombus terrestris and Bombus lapidarius. Both species are similar in their biology and are expected to be under similar selective pressures because pathogen prevalence does not differ between species. However, previous studies indicated a higher Ne in B. terrestris compared to B. lapidarius. We found high intraspecific variability in the coding sequence but low variability for silent polymorphisms in B. lapidarius. Estimates of long- and short-term Ne were three- to four-fold higher Ne in B. terrestris, although the species did not differ in census population sizes. The difference in Ne might result in less efficient selection and suboptimal adaptation of immune genes (e.g. hymenoptaecin) in B. lapidarius, and thus this species might become less resistant and more tolerant, turning into a superspreader of diseases.
Lattorff HMG, Popp M, Parsche S, Helbing S, Erler S (2016) Effective population size as a driver for divergence of an antimicrobial peptide (Hymenoptaecin) in two common European bumblebee species. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 119(2): 299-310. DOI: 10.1111/bij.12835