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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Sep 12;103(37):13753-8. Epub 2006 Aug 31.

Parallel genetic origins of pelvic reduction in vertebrates.

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Department of Developmental Biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305.


Despite longstanding interest in parallel evolution, little is known about the genes that control similar traits in different lineages of vertebrates. Pelvic reduction in stickleback fish (family Gasterosteidae) provides a striking example of parallel evolution in a genetically tractable system. Previous studies suggest that cis-acting regulatory changes at the Pitx1 locus control pelvic reduction in a population of threespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus). In this study, progeny from intergeneric crosses between pelvic-reduced threespine and ninespine (Pungitius pungitius) sticklebacks also showed severe pelvic reduction, implicating a similar genetic origin for this trait in both genera. Comparative sequencing studies in complete and pelvic-reduced Pungitius revealed no differences in the Pitx1 coding sequences, but Pitx1 expression was absent from the prospective pelvic region of larvae from pelvic-reduced parents. A much more phylogenetically distant example of pelvic reduction, loss of hindlimbs in manatees, shows a similar left-right size bias that is a morphological signature of Pitx1-mediated pelvic reduction in both sticklebacks and mice. These multiple lines of evidence suggest that changes in Pitx1 may represent a key mechanism of morphological evolution in multiple populations, species, and genera of sticklebacks, as well as in distantly related vertebrate lineages.

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