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Brain Behav Evol. 2011;77(4):270-85. doi: 10.1159/000328221. Epub 2011 Jun 16.

Brain transcriptomic response of threespine sticklebacks to cues of a predator.

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1
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Urbana, Ill. 61801, USA.

Abstract

Predation pressure represents a strong selective force that influences the development and evolution of living organisms. An increasing number of studies have shown that both environmental and social factors, including exposure to predators, substantially shape the structure and function of the brain. However, our knowledge about the molecular mechanisms underlying the response of the brain to environmental stimuli is limited. In this study, we used whole-genome comparative oligonucleotide microarrays to investigate the brain transcriptomic response to cues of a predator in the threespine stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus. We found that repeated exposure to olfactory, visual and tactile cues of a predator (rainbow trout, Oncorrhynchus mykiss) for 6 days resulted in subtle but significant transcriptomic changes in the brain of sticklebacks. Gene functional analysis and gene ontology enrichment revealed that the majority of the transcripts differentially expressed between the fish exposed to cues of a predator and the control group were related to antigen processing and presentation involving the major histocompatibility complex, transmission of synaptic signals, brain metabolic processes, gene regulation and visual perception. The top four identified pathways were synaptic long-term depression, RAN signaling, relaxin signaling and phototransduction. Our study demonstrates that exposure of sticklebacks to cues of a predator results in the activation of a wide range of biological and molecular processes and lays the foundation for future investigations on the molecular factors that modulate the function and evolution of the brain in response to stressors.

PMID:
21677424
PMCID:
PMC3182040
DOI:
10.1159/000328221
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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