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PLoS Genet. 2012 Jun;8(6):e1002788. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002788. Epub 2012 Jun 28.

Parallel evolution of auditory genes for echolocation in bats and toothed whales.

Author information

1
State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, and Yunnan Laboratory of Molecular Biology of Domestic Animals, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, China.

Abstract

The ability of bats and toothed whales to echolocate is a remarkable case of convergent evolution. Previous genetic studies have documented parallel evolution of nucleotide sequences in Prestin and KCNQ4, both of which are associated with voltage motility during the cochlear amplification of signals. Echolocation involves complex mechanisms. The most important factors include cochlear amplification, nerve transmission, and signal re-coding. Herein, we screen three genes that play different roles in this auditory system. Cadherin 23 (Cdh23) and its ligand, protocadherin 15 (Pcdh15), are essential for bundling motility in the sensory hair. Otoferlin (Otof) responds to nerve signal transmission in the auditory inner hair cell. Signals of parallel evolution occur in all three genes in the three groups of echolocators--two groups of bats (Yangochiroptera and Rhinolophoidea) plus the dolphin. Significant signals of positive selection also occur in Cdh23 in the Rhinolophoidea and dolphin, and Pcdh15 in Yangochiroptera. In addition, adult echolocating bats have higher levels of Otof expression in the auditory cortex than do their embryos and non-echolocation bats. Cdh23 and Pcdh15 encode the upper and lower parts of tip-links, and both genes show signals of convergent evolution and positive selection in echolocators, implying that they may co-evolve to optimize cochlear amplification. Convergent evolution and expression patterns of Otof suggest the potential role of nerve and brain in echolocation. Our synthesis of gene sequence and gene expression analyses reveals that positive selection, parallel evolution, and perhaps co-evolution and gene expression affect multiple hearing genes that play different roles in audition, including voltage and bundle motility in cochlear amplification, nerve transmission, and brain function.

PMID:
22761589
PMCID:
PMC3386236
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pgen.1002788
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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