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PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e27189. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027189. Epub 2011 Nov 16.

Adaptive evolution of Leptin in heterothermic bats.

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  • 1South China Institute of Endangered Animals, Guangzhou, China.

Erratum in

  • PLoS One. 2012;7(1). doi:10.1371/annotation/374a11a2-e3e8-423d-849f-7dbc1aaaaefb.

Abstract

Heterothermy (hibernation and daily torpor) is a key strategy that animals use to survive in harsh conditions and is widely employed by bats, which are found in diverse habitats and climates. Bats comprise more than 20% of all mammals and although heterothermy occurs in divergent lineages of bats, suggesting it might be an ancestral condition, its evolutionary history is complicated by complex phylogeographic patterns. Here, we use Leptin, which regulates lipid metabolism and is crucial for thermogenesis of hibernators, as molecular marker and combine physiological, molecular and biochemical analyses to explore the possible evolutionary history of heterothermy in bat. The two tropical fruit bats examined here were homeothermic; in contrast, the two tropical insectivorous bats were clearly heterothermic. Molecular evolutionary analyses of the Leptin gene revealed positive selection in the ancestors of all bats, which was maintained or further enhanced the lineages comprising mostly heterothermic species. In contrast, we found evidence of relaxed selection in homeothermic species. Biochemical assays of bat Leptin on the activity on adipocyte degradation revealed that Leptin in heterothermic bats was more lipolytic than in homeothermic bats. This shows that evolutionary sequence changes in this protein are indeed functional and support the interpretation of our physiological results and the molecular evolutionary analyses. Our combined data strongly support the hypothesis that heterothermy is the ancestral state of bats and that this involved adaptive changes in Leptin. Subsequent loss of heterothermy in some tropical lineages of bats likely was associated with range and dietary shifts.

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