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J Hered. 2005 May-Jun;96(3):261-78. Epub 2005 Jan 13.

Interaction of rearing environment and reproductive tactic on gene expression profiles in Atlantic salmon.

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  • 1Bauer Center for Genomics Research, Harvard University, 7 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Organisms that share the same genotype can develop into divergent phenotypes, depending on environmental conditions. In Atlantic salmon, young males of the same age can be found either as sneakers or immature males that are future anadromous fish. Just as the organism-level phenotype varies between divergent male developmental trajectories, brain gene expression is expected to vary as well. We hypothesized that rearing environment can also have an important effect on gene expression in the brain and possibly interact with the reproductive tactic adopted. We tested this hypothesis by comparing brain gene expression profiles of the two male tactics in fish from the same population that were reared in either a natural stream or under laboratory conditions. We found that expression of certain genes was affected by rearing environment only, while others varied between male reproductive tactics independent of rearing environment. Finally, more than half of all genes that showed variable expression varied between the two male tactics only in one environment. Thus, in these fish, very different molecular pathways can give rise to similar macro-phenotypes depending on rearing environment. This result gives important insights into the molecular underpinnings of developmental plasticity in relationship to the environment.

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