Genetic structure of an aphid studied using microsatellites: Cyclic parthenogenesis, differentiated lineages and host specialization

P. Sunnucks, P. J. De Barro, G. Lushai, N. Maclean, D. Hales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

203 Citations (Scopus)


In a previous study, samples of the grain aphid Sitobion avenae (F.) were collected from wheat and adjacent cocksfoot hosts in a population thought to be primarily parthenogenetic, and DNA from individual aphids was analysed with a multilocus technique. Here we have applied single-locus microsatellites and a mitochondrial DNA marker to a subset of the same DNA extracts, and have made several additional inferences about important genetic and population processes in S. avenae. Microsatellite analysis indicated very high levels of genic and genotypic variation. S. avenae fell into three genotypic groups inferred to be almost noninterbreeding, while analysis of linkage and Hardy-Weinberg equilibria suggested high levels of sexual recombination within each genotypic group. Host specialization was evident: one lineage was found only on wheat, and one (bearing many alleles inferred to be introgressed from the blackberry-grass aphid S. fragariae (Walker)) was found only on cocksfoot. The third group of interrelated genotypes was found commonly on both hosts. Although most genotypes were found only once, some were much more numerous in the sample than expected from the frequency of the alleles they contained. This, and rapid temporal changes in genotypic composition of samples, indicates strong selective differences between genotypes and lineages. In the major genotypic group, the commonest genotypes were significantly more homozygous than were rare ones: thus these data may help to explain the frequent observation of homozygous excess in aphid allozymes. The genotype group showing S. avenae-like as well as S. fragariae-like alleles also carried S. fragariae-like mitochondrial DNA in at least 25/31 cases, indicating gender-asymmetrical hybridization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1059-1073
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Evolution
  • Genetic differentiation
  • Host Plant
  • Microsatellites
  • Sex and parthenogenesis
  • Sitobion aphids

Cite this