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Ecol Evol. 2012 Jan;2(1):258-71. doi: 10.1002/ece3.52.

Regulatory versus coding signatures of natural selection in a candidate gene involved in the adaptive divergence of whitefish species pairs (Coregonus spp.).

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Institut de biologie intégrative et des systèmes (IBIS), Québec-Océan, 1030 av. de la médecine, Université Laval Québec, QC, G1V 0A6, Canada.


While gene expression divergence is known to be involved in adaptive phenotypic divergence and speciation, the relative importance of regulatory and structural evolution of genes is poorly understood. A recent next-generation sequencing experiment allowed identifying candidate genes potentially involved in the ongoing speciation of sympatric dwarf and normal lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis), such as cytosolic malate dehydrogenase (MDH1), which showed both significant expression and sequence divergence. The main goal of this study was to investigate into more details the signatures of natural selection in the regulatory and coding sequences of MDH1 in lake whitefish and test for parallelism of these signatures with other coregonine species. Sequencing of the two regions in 118 fish from four sympatric pairs of whitefish and two cisco species revealed a total of 35 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), with more genetic diversity in European compared to North American coregonine species. While the coding region was found to be under purifying selection, an SNP in the proximal promoter exhibited significant allele frequency divergence in a parallel manner among independent sympatric pairs of North American lake whitefish and European whitefish (C. lavaretus). According to transcription factor binding simulation for 22 regulatory haplotypes of MDH1, putative binding profiles were fairly conserved among species, except for the region around this SNP. Moreover, we found evidence for the role of this SNP in the regulation of MDH1 expression level. Overall, these results provide further evidence for the role of natural selection in gene regulation evolution among whitefish species pairs and suggest its possible link with patterns of phenotypic diversity observed in coregonine species.


Adaptive divergence; Coregonus; gene expression; natural selection; regulatory evolution; speciation

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