Molecular genetic analysis was conducted on two populations of the invasive non-native New Zealand mud snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum), one from a freshwater ecosystem in Devil's Lake (Oregon, USA) and the other from an ecosystem of higher salinity in the Columbia River estuary (Hammond Harbor, Oregon, USA). To elucidate potential genetic differences between the two populations, three segments of nuclear ribosomal DNA (rDNA), the ITS1-ITS2 regions and the 18S and 28S rDNA genes were cloned and sequenced. Variant sequences within each individual were found in all three rDNA segments. Folding models were utilized for secondary structure analysis and results indicated that there were many sequences which contained structure-altering polymorphisms, which suggests they could be nonfunctional pseudogenes. In addition, analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) was used for hierarchical analysis of genetic variance to estimate variation within and among populations and within individuals. AMOVA revealed significant variation in the ITS region between the populations and among clones within individuals, while in the 5.8S rDNA significant variation was revealed among individuals within the two populations. High levels of intragenomic variation were found in the ITS regions, which are known to be highly variable in many organisms. More interestingly, intragenomic variation was also found in the 18S and 28S rDNA, which has rarely been observed in animals and is so far unreported in Mollusca. We postulate that in these P. antipodarum populations the effects of concerted evolution are diminished due to the fact that not all of the rDNA genes in their polyploid genome should be essential for sustaining cellular function. This could lead to a lessening of selection pressures, allowing mutations to accumulate in some copies, changing them into variant sequences.
Additional publication details
Intragenomic sequence variation at the ITS1 - ITS2 region and at the 18S and 28S nuclear ribosomal DNA genes of the New Zealand mud snail, Potamopyrgus antipodarum (Hydrobiidae: mollusca)