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PLoS Genet. 2018 Sep 4;14(9):e1007612. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007612. eCollection 2018 Sep.

Parallel clinal variation in the mid-day siesta of Drosophila melanogaster implicates continent-specific targets of natural selection.

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Rutgers University, Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, New Jersey, United States of America.
Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Rutgers University, Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, New Jersey, United States of America.


Similar to many diurnal animals, Drosophila melanogaster exhibits a mid-day siesta that is more robust as ambient temperature rises, an adaptive response aimed at minimizing exposure to heat. Mid-day siesta levels are partly regulated by the thermosensitive splicing of a small intron (termed dmpi8) found in the 3' untranslated region (UTR) of the circadian clock gene period (per). Using the well-studied D. melanogaster latitudinal cline along the eastern coast of Australia, we show that flies from temperate populations sleep less during the day compared to those from tropical regions. We identified combinations of four single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the 3' UTR of per that yield several different haplotypes. The two most abundant of these haplotypes exhibit a reciprocal tropical-temperate distribution in relative frequency. Intriguingly, transgenic flies with the major tropical isoform manifest increased daytime sleep and reduced dmpi8 splicing compared to those carrying the temperate variant. Our results strongly suggest that for a major portion of D. melanogaster in Australia, thermal adaptation of daily sleep behavior included spatially varying selection on ancestrally derived polymorphisms in the per 3' UTR that differentially control dmpi8 splicing efficiency. Prior work showed that African flies from high altitudes manifest reduced mid-day siesta levels, indicative of parallel latitudinal and altitudinal adaptation across continents. However, geographical variation in per 3' UTR haplotypes was not observed for African flies, providing a compelling case for inter-continental variation in factors targeted by natural selection in attaining a parallel adaptation. We propose that the ability to calibrate mid-day siesta levels to better match local temperature ranges is a key adaptation contributing to the successful colonization of D. melanogaster beyond its ancestral range in the lowlands of Sub-Saharan Africa.

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