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Genes (Basel). 2019 Oct 12;10(10). pii: E801. doi: 10.3390/genes10100801.

Transcriptomics of Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus Harrisii) Ear Tissue Reveals Homogeneous Gene Expression Patterns across a Heterogeneous Landscape.

Author information

1
School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA. alexandra.fraik@wsu.edu.
2
School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA. corey.quackenbush@wsu.edu.
3
School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA. mark.margres@wsu.edu.
4
Department of Biological Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634, USA. mark.margres@wsu.edu.
5
School of Natural Sciences, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia. sebastien.comte@utas.edu.au.
6
Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, NSW Department of Primary Industries, 1447 Forest Road, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia. sebastien.comte@utas.edu.au.
7
School of Natural Sciences, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia. d.g.hamilton@utas.edu.au.
8
School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA. chris.kozakiewicz@wsu.edu.
9
School of Natural Sciences, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia. menna.jones@utas.edu.au.
10
School of Natural Sciences, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia. rodrigo.hamedeross@utas.edu.au.
11
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies, University of Idaho, 875 Perimeter Drive, Moscow, ID 83844, USA. hohenlohe@uidaho.edu.
12
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies, University of Idaho, 875 Perimeter Drive, Moscow, ID 83844, USA. astorfer@wsu.edu.
13
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies, University of Idaho, 875 Perimeter Drive, Moscow, ID 83844, USA. joanna.l.kelley@wsu.edu.

Abstract

In an era of unprecedented global change, exploring patterns of gene expression among wild populations across their geographic range is crucial for characterizing adaptive potential. RNA-sequencing studies have successfully characterized gene expression differences among populations experiencing divergent environmental conditions in a wide variety of taxa. However, few of these studies have identified transcriptomic signatures to multivariate, environmental stimuli among populations in their natural environments. Herein, we aim to identify environmental and sex-driven patterns of gene expression in the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), a critically endangered species that occupies a heterogeneous environment. We performed RNA-sequencing on ear tissue biopsies from adult male and female devils from three populations at the extremes of their geographic range. There were no transcriptome-wide patterns of differential gene expression that would be suggestive of significant, environmentally-driven transcriptomic responses. The general lack of transcriptome-wide variation in gene expression levels across the devil's geographic range is consistent with previous studies that documented low levels of genetic variation in the species. However, genes previously implicated in local adaptation to abiotic environment in devils were enriched for differentially expressed genes. Additionally, three modules of co-expressed genes were significantly associated with either population of origin or sex.

KEYWORDS:

RNA-sequencing; Tasmanian devil; conservation genomics; geographic variation; population level; sex-specific expression

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