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This content will become publicly available on April 1, 2023

Title: Gene Regulatory Evolution in Cold-Adapted Fly Populations Neutralizes Plasticity and May Undermine Genetic Canalization
Abstract The relationships between adaptive evolution, phenotypic plasticity, and canalization remain incompletely understood. Theoretical and empirical studies have made conflicting arguments on whether adaptive evolution may enhance or oppose the plastic response. Gene regulatory traits offer excellent potential to study the relationship between plasticity and adaptation, and they can now be studied at the transcriptomic level. Here, we take advantage of three closely related pairs of natural populations of Drosophila melanogaster from contrasting thermal environments that reflect three separate instances of cold tolerance evolution. We measure the transcriptome-wide plasticity in gene expression levels and alternative splicing (intron usage) between warm and cold laboratory environments. We find that suspected adaptive changes in both gene expression and alternative splicing tend to neutralize the ancestral plastic response. Further, we investigate the hypothesis that adaptive evolution can lead to decanalization of selected gene regulatory traits. We find strong evidence that suspected adaptive gene expression (but not splicing) changes in cold-adapted populations are more vulnerable to the genetic perturbation of inbreeding than putatively neutral changes. We find some evidence that these patterns may reflect a loss of genetic canalization accompanying adaptation, although other processes including hitchhiking recessive deleterious variants may contribute as well. Our findings more » augment our understanding of genetic and environmental effects on gene regulation in the context of adaptive evolution. « less
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Zhang, George
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Genome Biology and Evolution
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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