Population Structure and Diversity in European Honey Bees (Apis mellifera L.) – An Empirical Comparison of Pool and Individual Whole-Genome Sequencing

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Background: Whole-genome sequencing has become routine for population genetic studies. Sequencing of individuals provides maximal data but is rather expensive and fewer samples can be studied. In contrast, sequencing a pool of samples (pool-seq) can provide sufficient data, while presenting less of an economic challenge. Few studies have compared the two approaches to infer population genetic structure and diversity in real datasets. Here, we apply individual sequencing (ind-seq) and pool-seq to the study of Western honey bees (Apis mellifera). Methods: We collected honey bee workers that belonged to 14 populations, including 13 subspecies, totaling 1347 colonies, who were individually (139 individuals) and pool-sequenced (14 pools). We compared allele frequencies, genetic diversity estimates, and population structure as inferred by the two approaches. Results: Pool-seq and ind-seq revealed near identical population structure and genetic diversities, albeit at different costs. While pool-seq provides genome-wide polymorphism data at considerably lower costs, ind-seq can provide additional information, including the identification of population substructures, hybridization, or individual outliers. Conclusions: If costs are not the limiting factor, we recommend using ind-seq, as population genetic structure can be inferred similarly well, with the advantage gained from individual genetic information. Not least, it also significantly reduces the effort required for the collection of numerous samples and their further processing in the laboratory.

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