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Genetics. 2008 Sep;180(1):147-64. doi: 10.1534/genetics.108.089938. Epub 2008 Aug 30.

The phenomics and expression quantitative trait locus mapping of brain transcriptomes regulating adaptive divergence in lake whitefish species pairs (Coregonus sp.).

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Département de Biologie, Université Laval, Québec City, Québec G1V 0A6, Canada.


We used microarrays and a previously established linkage map to localize the genetic determinants of brain gene expression for a backcross family of lake whitefish species pairs (Coregonus sp.). Our goals were to elucidate the genomic distribution and sex specificity of brain expression QTL (eQTL) and to determine the extent to which genes controlling transcriptional variation may underlie adaptive divergence in the recently evolved dwarf (limnetic) and normal (benthic) whitefish. We observed a sex bias in transcriptional genetic architecture, with more eQTL observed in males, as well as divergence in genome location of eQTL between the sexes. Hotspots of nonrandom aggregations of up to 32 eQTL in one location were observed. We identified candidate genes for species pair divergence involved with energetic metabolism, protein synthesis, and neural development on the basis of colocalization of eQTL for these genes with eight previously identified adaptive phenotypic QTL and four previously identified outlier loci from a genome scan in natural populations. Eighty-eight percent of eQTL-phenotypic QTL colocalization involved growth rate and condition factor QTL, two traits central to adaptive divergence between whitefish species pairs. Hotspots colocalized with phenotypic QTL in several cases, revealing possible locations where master regulatory genes, such as a zinc-finger protein in one case, control gene expression directly related to adaptive phenotypic divergence. We observed little evidence of colocalization of brain eQTL with behavioral QTL, which provides insight into the genes identified by behavioral QTL studies. These results extend to the transcriptome level previous work illustrating that selection has shaped recent parallel divergence between dwarf and normal lake whitefish species pairs and that metabolic, more than morphological, differences appear to play a key role in this divergence.

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