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Mol Ecol. 2015 Sep;24(18):4664-78. doi: 10.1111/mec.13344. Epub 2015 Sep 6.

Evolutionary suppression of erythropoiesis via the modulation of TGF-β signalling in an Antarctic icefish.

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Key Laboratory of Sustainable Exploitation of Oceanic Fisheries Resources, Ministry of Education, College of Marine Sciences, Shanghai Ocean University, Shanghai, 201306, China.
Collaborative Innovation Center for Distant-water Fisheries, Shanghai, 201306, China.
Key Laboratory of Aquaculture Resources and Utilization, Ministry of Education, College of Fisheries and Life Sciences, Shanghai Ocean University, Shanghai, 201306, China.


The Antarctic icefish, a family (Channichthyidae) of teleosts within the perciform suborder Notothenioidei, are the only known vertebrates without oxygen-transporting haemoglobins and that are largely devoid of circulating erythrocytes. To elucidate the evo-devo mechanisms underpinning the suppressed erythropoiesis in the icefish, we conducted comparative studies on the transcriptomes and microRNAomes of the primary haematopoietic tissues between an icefish (Chionodraco hamatus) and two red-blooded notothenioids (Trematomus bernacchii and Gymnodraco acuticeps). We identified substantial remodelling of the haematopoietic programs in the icefish through which erythropoiesis is selectively suppressed. Experimental verification showed that erythropoietic suppression in the icefish may be attributable to the upregulation of TGF-β signalling, which coincides with reductions in multiple transcription factors essential for erythropoiesis and the upregulation of hundreds of microRNAs, the majority (> 80%) of which potentially target erythropoiesis regulating factors. Of the six microRNAs selected for verification, three miRNAs (miR-152, miR-1388 and miR-16b) demonstrated suppressive functions on GATA1 and ALAS2, which are two factors important for erythroid differentiation, resulting in reduced numbers of erythroids in microinjected zebra fish embryos. Codon substitution analyses of the genes of the TGF-β superfamily revealed signs of positive selection in TGF-β1 and endoglin in the lineages leading to Antarctic notothenioids. Both genes are previously known to function in erythropoietic suppression. These findings implied a general trend of erythropoietic suppression in the cold-adapted notothenioid lineages through evolutionary modulation of the multi-functional TGF-β signalling pathway. This trend is more pronounced in the haemoglobin-less icefish, which may pre-emptively hinder the otherwise defective erythroids from production.


Antarctic icefish; TGF-β signalling; erythropoiesis; microRNAome; transcriptome comparison

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