High-diversity genes represent an important class of loci in organismal genomes. Since elevated levels of nucleotide variation are a key component of the molecular signature for balancing selection or local adaptation, high-diversity genes may represent loci whose alleles are selectively maintained as balanced polymorphisms. Comparison of 4300 random shotgun sequence fragments of the Arabidopsis thaliana L er ecotype genome with the whole genomic sequence of the Col-0 ecotype identified 60 genes with putatively high levels of intraspecific variability. Eleven of these genes were sequenced in multiple A. thaliana accessions, 3 of which were found to display elevated levels of nucleotide polymorphism. These genes encode the myb-like transcription factor MYB103, a putative soluble starch synthase I, and a homeodomain-leucine zipper transcription factor. Analysis of these genes and 4-7 flanking genes in 14-20 A. thaliana ecotypes revealed that two of these loci show other characteristics of balanced polymorphisms, including broad peaks of nucleotide diversity spanning multiple linked genes and an excess of intermediate-frequency polymorphisms. Scanning genomes for high-diversity genomic regions may be useful in approaches to adaptive trait locus mapping for uncovering candidate balanced polymorphisms.
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