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Environment-dependent balancing selection in a gene involved in sexual conflict

Institute of Environmental Sciences

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Dr A. Plesnar-Bielak No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

PhD student position is offered from October 2020 within the Polish National Science Centre grant Environment-dependent balancing selection in a gene involved in sexual conflict in Genomics and Experimental Evolution Group at Jagiellonian University, Institute of Environmental Sciences.

The project

The maintenance of genetic variability, enabling populations to adapt to novel environments, is one of the greatest puzzles in evolutionary biology. This is because ubiquitous directional selection should lead to depletion of genetic variation in selected traits. This is especially the case with sexually selected traits, in which directional selection is particularly strong. Yet, substantial genetic variance in these traits is maintained. A potent force proposed to maintain genetic variation is balancing selection which can take a form of a crossover genotype by environment interaction for fitness in heterogeneous environments. It causes selection to act in environment-dependent manner so that one allele is favored in one environment and the other at another one.
We aim to investigate the maintenance of polymorphism in Phosphogluconate dehydrogenase (6Pgdh) —a sexually selected gene associated with sexual conflict in the bulb mite Rhizoglyphus robini. 6Pgdh polymorphism (with two alleles, S and F) is associated with differences in male reproductive success. The S-bearers have advantage in male-male competition, but decrease fecundity of their partners. Previous studies suggest that 6Pgdh polymorphism is maintained by environment-dependent balancing selection, but the exact mechanisms driving this selection are unknown. PhD candidate will investigate ecological factors that determine persistence of the polymorphism.

More about the project:

Scope of work

PhD candidate will assess the level of 6Pgdh polymorphism in natural populations and determine environmental factors affecting 6Pgdh allele frequencies in the field. He/she will conduct experimental evolution and will be involved in phenotypic measurements in the lab that will enable direct test of the role of potential factors driving 6Pgdh frequencies. Real-time PCR with TaqMan probes will be used to genotype individuals. PhD candidate may also be involved in other molecular analyses conducted in frames of the project, including transcriptomics.

The Student will join a dynamic, cooperative research group at the Institute of Environmental Sciences, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland ( The Institute of Environmental Sciences is one of the most influential and best-recognized research institutions in the fields of Ecology and Evolution in Central Europe located in a beautiful medieval city with rich history and lively cultural life, well connected to other European cities.

The successful candidate will have a M.Sc. degree in biology or other relevant fields by the start of the studentship. We are looking for a student with good English, strong background in Evolutionary Biology and experience in molecular techniques as well as good skills in data analyses. Excellent communication and organizational skills are also required.

Please send a CV including contact details for two references and a cover letter to Agata Plesnar-Bielak ([Email Address Removed]) by August 10. The selected candidate will be assisted with a formal application to the PhD program at Jagiellonian University (the exam will take place between 9th and 14th September 2020)

For more information, please e-mail Agata Plesnar-Bielak ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

The PhD student will receive a tax-free scholarship from doctoral school (ca. 2500 PLN) and/or a tax-free research stipend from the National Science Centre grant (3000 PLN per month).


Skwierzyńska, Anna M., and Agata Plesnar‐Bielak. "Proximate mechanisms of the differences in reproductive success of males bearing different alleles of Pgdh–a gene involved in a sexual conflict in bulb mite." Journal of Evolutionary Biology 31.5 (2018): 657-664.

Plesnar‐Bielak, Agata, Anna M. Skwierzyńska, and Jacek Radwan. "Sexual and ecological selection on a sexual conflict gene." Journal of Evolutionary Biology (2020).

Konior, Magdalena, et al. "Strong association between a single gene and fertilization efficiency of males and fecundity of their mates in the bulb mite." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 273.1584 (2006): 309-314.

Łukasik, Piotr, Małgorzata Zygadło, and Jacek Radwan. "The effect of a phosphogluconate dehydrogenase genotype on sperm competitiveness in the bulb mite, Rhizoglyphus robini." Trends in Acarology. Springer, Dordrecht, 2010. 295-297.
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