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Anonymous nuclear DNA markers in the American oyster and their implications for the heterozygote deficiency phenomenon in marine bivalves.


A puzzling population-genetic phenomenon widely reported in allozyme surveys of marine bivalves is the occurrence of heterozygote deficits relative to Hardy-Weinberg expectations. Possible explanations for this pattern are categorized with respect to whether the effects should be confined to protein-level assays or are genomically pervasive and expected to be registered in both protein- and DNA-level assays. Anonymous nuclear DNA markers from the American oyster were employed to reexamine the phenomenon. In assays based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), two DNA-level processes were encountered that can lead to artifactual genotypic scorings: (a) differential amplification of alleles at a target locus and (b) amplification from multiple paralogous loci. We describe symptoms of these complications and prescribe methods that should generally help to ameliorate them. When artifactual scorings at two anonymous DNA loci in the American oyster were corrected, Hardy-Weinberg deviations registered in preliminary population assays decreased to nonsignificant values. Implications of these findings for the heterozygote-deficit phenomenon in marine bivalves, and for the general development and use of PCR-based assays, are discussed.

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