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BMC Genomics. 2012 Nov 1;13:588. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-13-588.

Toward understanding the genetic basis of adaptation to high-elevation life in poikilothermic species: a comparative transcriptomic analysis of two ranid frogs, Rana chensinensis and R. kukunoris.

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  • 1Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu, 610041, China.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Understanding how organisms adapt to high-elevation environments at a genome scale provides novel insights into the process of adaptive evolution. Previous studies have mainly focused on endothermic organisms, while poikilothermic species may have evolved different mechanisms to cope with high-elevation environments. In this context, we sequenced transcriptomes of a pair of closely related anuran species, Rana chensinensis and R. kukunoris, which inhabit respective low- and high-elevation habitats. By comparing the two transcriptomes, we identified candidate genes that may be involved in high-elevation adaption in poikilothermic species.

RESULTS:

Over 66 million sequence reads from each transcriptome were generated. A total of 41,858 and 39,293 transcripts for each species were obtained by de novo assembly. By comparing the orthologous transcripts, we identified 125 protein-coding genes that have likely experienced strong positive selection (Ka/Ks>1). In addition, 335 genes that may bear a signature of positive selection (1≥Ka/Ks>0.5) were also recognized. By considering their functions, fourteen candidate genes were determined to be likely involved in high-elevation adaptation, including two CYP genes, USP-1, and several others.

CONCLUSIONS:

We identified a set of candidate genes that may have promoted adaptation of R. kukunoris to its high-elevation environment. These include several genes that have previously been associated with oxygen binding, response to UV radiation, and repair of free radical injury. Detailed molecular, physiological, and phenotypic studies are required to better understand the roles of these genes in improving the performance of R. kukunoris in a high-elevation environment. We have evidence for both convergent and divergent evolution between endothermic and poikilothemic species, but additional research across a wide range of organisms will be necessary to comprehend the complexity of high-elevation adaptation.

PMID:
23116153
PMCID:
PMC3542248
DOI:
10.1186/1471-2164-13-588
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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