Detecting selection on nucleotide sequences, evolution in multigene families

I’ve posted notes for next week’s lectures about detecting selection on nucleotide sequences (which will introduce you to Tajima’s D) and on evolution in multigene families (which will introduce you to orthology, paralogy, and concerted evolution). Remember that Nora will be presenting these lectures, since I’ll be in Dublin at the annual meetings of the Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies (DDoGS) for universities in Universitas 21 ( Nora knows population genetics very well, and it’s likely she’ll be able to answer any question you have. If for some reason she can’t, keep track of it. We’ll spend time dealing with any of those questions on the Tuesday when I return.

A history of molecular population genetics

In catching up on my reading today, I noticed that Sònia Casillas and Antonio Barbadilla have a review article in the March 2017 issue of Genetics on the history of molecular population genetics. I haven’t had a chance to read it carefully, but I did look it over quickly, and it appears to give a very nice overview of developments from the era of protein electrophoresis to the present day and population genomics. I’m pasting the abstract below, but I encourage you to follow the link and read the whole thing.

Casillas, S., and A. Barbabadilla.  2017.  Molecular population genetics. Genetics 205:1003-1035.  doi:

Molecular population genetics aims to explain genetic variation and molecular evolution from population genetics principles. The field was born 50 years ago with the first measures of genetic variation in allozyme loci, continued with the nucleotide sequencing era, and is currently in the era of population genomics. During this period, molecular population genetics has been revolutionized by progress in data acquisition and theoretical developments. The conceptual elegance of the neutral theory of molecular evolution or the footprint carved by natural selection on the patterns of genetic variation are two examples of the vast number of inspiring findings of population genetics research. Since the inception of the field, Drosophila has been the prominent model species: molecular variation in populations was first described in Drosophila and most of the population genetics hypotheses were tested in Drosophila species. In this review, we describe the main concepts, methods, and landmarks of molecular population genetics, using the Drosophila model as a reference. We describe the different genetic data sets made available by advances in molecular technologies, and the theoretical developments fostered by these data. Finally, we review the results and new insights provided by the population genomics approach, and conclude by enumerating challenges and new lines of inquiry posed by increasingly large population scale sequence data.

Project #4 posted

Just in case you want to get an early start on Project #4, I’ve posted a link to it on the lecture detail page for tomorrow’s lecture.  It’s not due until the Tuesday after spring break, but Nora will be in Texas getting experiments for her postdoc started during spring break, and I’ll be (mostly) unavailable during spring break, so I encourage you to get started on it soon.

First set of molecular evolution notes are posted

We shift gears on Tuesday and start our survey of molecular evolution. We’ll start with a review of the kinds of molecular variation that population geneticists have studied over the last 50 years, then we’ll discuss the neutral theory and some of the ways it’s been modified to fit our increasingly sophisticated understanding of molecular variation. After spring break Nora will talk about some of the ways we can detect selection on nucleotide sequences and about the evolution of multigene families. When I get back we’ll talk about how to use data from molecular markers to make inferences about the recent evolutionary history of individuals and populations, and we’ll finish with a very brief discussion of how the explosion of data that is coming with high-throughput sequencing is changing our approach to understanding evolutionary processes in populations.