Katherine Mitchell: Mitochondrial DNA Diversity of a Captive Group of Hylobates moloch

Writtle College logoKatherine Mitchell posterHylobates moloch is described as the most urgent conservation concern of all Asian primates.  A future conservation initiative orchestrated by the Aspinall Foundation to minimise extinction risks for this species includes a captive breeding and reintroduction programme.  Genetic variability has been described as the ‘clay of evolution’ (Amos and Harwood, 1998) which is a concept that is pertinent to a captively bred population who, after a (as yet unknown) number of generations may have undergone alterations at the genetic level as a cause of relaxed environmental pressures within the captive habitat.
This study analysed genetic variability at the hypervariable-I region (HV-I) within the Control Region of mtDNA of 15 individuals housed at Howletts and Port Lympne zoological institutions.  Although pertaining to uniparental genomic inheritance, it is the temporal scale of mutation of this genomic segment (purported to occur at a rate 5 to 10 times faster than in nuclear DNA) that this DNA marker was chosen.
Results 
PCR product length totalled 511 nucleotide sites and a haplotype count of 5.
Haplotype Haplotype count (intra-population) Haplotype frequency
1 1 0.0667
2 4 0.267
3 1 0.0667
4 8 0.533
5 1 0.0667
Table 1.0 – Haplotype count and frequency
Of the 511 loci 30 were found to be polymorphic, all with 2 alleles per locus.  Nucleotide diversity (average over loci) was 0.011704 +/- 0.006630.
Conclusion
Overall product length was longer than previously reported (e.g. Monda et al., 2007; Whittaker et al., 2007).  However, although the HV-1 mtDNA region is described as highly variable and with the fastest mutation rate within the mtDNA molecule in primates, results within the study population indicate low levels of diversity.
References
Amos, W., Harwood, J.  (1998)  Factors affecting levels of genetic diversity in natural populations.  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, 353;  177-186.
Monda, K., Simmons, R.E., Kressirer, P., Su, B., Woodruff, D.S.  (2007)  Mitochondrial DNA hypervariable region-1 sequence variation and phylogeny of the Concolor Gibbons, Nomascus.  American Journal of Primatology, 69:  1285-1306.
Whittaker, D.J., Morales, J.C., Melnick, D.J. (2007)  Resolution of the Hylobates phylogeny:  Congruence of mitochondrial D-loop sequences with molecular, behavioural, and morphological data sets.  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 45:  620-628.

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