A critical seasonal event for anadromous Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) is the time at which adults migrate from the ocean to breed in freshwater. We investigated whether allelic variation at the circadian rhythm genes, OtsClock1a and OtsClock1b, underlies genetic control of migration timing among 42 populations in North America. We identified eight length variants of the functionally important polyglutamine repeat motif (PolyQ) of OtsClock1b while OtsClock1a PolyQ was highly conserved. We found evidence of a latitudinal cline in average allele length and frequency of the two most common OtsClock1b alleles. The shorter 335 bp allele increases in frequency with decreasing latitude while the longer 359 bp allele increases in frequency at higher latitudes. Comparison to 13 microsatellite loci showed that 335 and 359 bp deviate significantly from neutral expectations. Furthermore, a hierarchical gene diversity analysis based on OtsClock1b PolyQ variation revealed that run timing explains 40.9 per cent of the overall genetic variance among populations. By contrast, an analysis based on 13 microsatellite loci showed that run timing explains only 13.2 per cent of the overall genetic variance. Our findings suggest that length polymorphisms in OtsClock1b PolyQ may be maintained by selection and reflect an adaptation to ecological factors correlated with latitude, such as the seasonally changing day length.
O’Malley KG, Banks MA (2008) A latitudinal cline in the Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) Clock gene: Evidence for selection on PolyQ length variants. Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Featured article), 275, 2813-2821