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  1. Abstract

    In vitro assays are crucial tools for gaining detailed insights into various biological processes, including metabolism. Cave morphs of the river‐dwelling fish species,Astyanax mexicanus, have adapted their metabolism allowing them to thrive in the biodiversity‐deprived and nutrient‐limited environment of caves. Liver‐derived cells from the cave and river morphs ofA. mexicanushave proven to be excellent in vitro resources to better understand the unique metabolism of these fish. However, the current 2D cultures have not fully captured the complex metabolic profile of theAstyanaxliver. It is known that 3D culturing can modulate the transcriptomic state of cells when compared to its 2D monolayer culture. Therefore, to broaden the possibilities of the in vitro system by modeling a wider gamut of metabolic pathways, we cultured the liver‐derivedAstyanaxcells of both surface and cavefish into 3D spheroids. We successfully established 3D cultures at various cell seeding densities for several weeks and characterized the resultant transcriptomic and metabolic variations. We found that the 3D culturedAstyanaxcells exhibit an altered transcriptomic profile and consequently represent a wider range of metabolic pathways, including cell cycle changes and antioxidant activities, associated with liver functioning as compared to its monolayer culture. Enzymatic assay measuring antioxidants in 2D culture and 3D spheroids also revealed enhanced antioxidative capacity of 3D cultured spheroids, in line with the differential gene expression data. Additionally, the spheroids also exhibited surface and cave‐specific metabolic signatures, making it a suitable system for evolutionary studies associated with cave adaptation. Notably, cavefish derived spheroids enriched for genes responding to xenobiotic stimulus, while the ones from surface enriched for immune response, both of which resonated with known physiologically adaptations associated with each morph. Taken together, the liver‐derived spheroids prove to be a promising in vitro model for widening our understanding of metabolism inA. mexicanusand of vertebrates in general.

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  2. Abstract

    Laboratory studies have demonstrated that a single phenotype can be produced by many different genotypes; however, in natural systems, it is frequently found that phenotypic convergence is due to parallel genetic changes. This suggests a substantial role for constraint and determinism in evolution and indicates that certain mutations are more likely to contribute to phenotypic evolution. Here we use whole genome resequencing in the Mexican tetra,Astyanax mexicanus, to investigate how selection has shaped the repeated evolution of both trait loss and enhancement across independent cavefish lineages. We show that selection on standing genetic variation and de novo mutations both contribute substantially to repeated adaptation. Our findings provide empirical support for the hypothesis that genes with larger mutational targets are more likely to be the substrate of repeated evolution and indicate that features of the cave environment may impact the rate at which mutations occur.

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  3. ABSTRACT Transgenesis is an essential technique for any genetic model. Tol2-based transgenesis paired with Gateway-compatible vector collections has transformed zebrafish transgenesis with an accessible modular system. Here, we establish several next-generation transgenesis tools for zebrafish and other species to expand and enhance transgenic applications. To facilitate gene regulatory element testing, we generated Gateway middle entry vectors harboring the small mouse beta-globin minimal promoter coupled to several fluorophores, CreERT2 and Gal4. To extend the color spectrum for transgenic applications, we established middle entry vectors encoding the bright, blue-fluorescent protein mCerulean and mApple as an alternative red fluorophore. We present a series of p2A peptide-based 3′ vectors with different fluorophores and subcellular localizations to co-label cells expressing proteins of interest. Finally, we established Tol2 destination vectors carrying the zebrafish exorh promoter driving different fluorophores as a pineal gland-specific transgenesis marker that is active before hatching and through adulthood. exorh-based reporters and transgenesis markers also drive specific pineal gland expression in the eye-less cavefish (Astyanax). Together, our vectors provide versatile reagents for transgenesis applications in zebrafish, cavefish and other models. 
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  4. Insights from organisms, which have evolved natural strategies for promoting survivability under extreme environmental pressures, may help guide future research into novel approaches for enhancing human longevity. The cave-adapted Mexican tetra, Astyanax mexicanus , has attracted interest as a model system for metabolic resilience , a term we use to denote the property of maintaining health and longevity under conditions that would be highly deleterious in other organisms (Figure 1). Cave-dwelling populations of Mexican tetra exhibit elevated blood glucose, insulin resistance and hypertrophic visceral adipocytes compared to surface-dwelling counterparts. However, cavefish appear to avoid pathologies typically associated with these conditions, such as accumulation of advanced-glycation-end-products (AGEs) and chronic tissue inflammation. The metabolic strategies underlying the resilience properties of A. mexicanus cavefish, and how they relate to environmental challenges of the cave environment, are poorly understood. Here, we provide an untargeted metabolomics study of long- and short-term fasting in two A. mexicanus cave populations and one surface population. We find that, although the metabolome of cavefish bears many similarities with pathological conditions such as metabolic syndrome, cavefish also exhibit features not commonly associated with a pathological condition, and in some cases considered indicative of an overall robust metabolic condition. These include a reduction in cholesteryl esters and intermediates of protein glycation, and an increase in antioxidants and metabolites associated with hypoxia and longevity. This work suggests that certain metabolic features associated with human pathologies are either not intrinsically harmful, or can be counteracted by reciprocal adaptations. We provide a transparent pipeline for reproducing our analysis and a Shiny app for other researchers to explore and visualize our dataset. 
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  5. Physical inactivity is a scourge to human health, promoting metabolic disease and muscle wasting. Interestingly, multiple ecological niches have relaxed investment into physical activity, providing an evolutionary perspective into the effect of adaptive physical inactivity on tissue homeostasis. One such example, the Mexican cavefishAstyanax mexicanus,has lost moderate-to-vigorous activity following cave colonization, reaching basal swim speeds ~3.7-fold slower than their river-dwelling counterpart. This change in behavior is accompanied by a marked shift in body composition, decreasing total muscle mass and increasing fat mass. This shift persisted at the single muscle fiber level via increased lipid and sugar accumulation at the expense of myofibrillar volume. Transcriptomic analysis of laboratory-reared and wild-caught cavefish indicated that this shift is driven by increased expression ofpparγ—the master regulator of adipogenesis—with a simultaneous decrease in fast myosin heavy chain expression. Ex vivo and in vivo analysis confirmed that these investment strategies come with a functional trade-off, decreasing cavefish muscle fiber shortening velocity, time to maximal force, and ultimately maximal swimming speed. Despite this, cavefish displayed a striking degree of muscular endurance, reaching maximal swim speeds ~3.5-fold faster than their basal swim speeds. Multi-omic analysis suggested metabolic reprogramming, specifically phosphorylation of Pgm1-Threonine 19, as a key component enhancing cavefish glycogen metabolism and sustained muscle contraction. Collectively, we reveal broad skeletal muscle changes following cave colonization, displaying an adaptive skeletal muscle phenotype reminiscent to mammalian disuse and high-fat models while simultaneously maintaining a unique capacity for sustained muscle contraction via enhanced glycogen metabolism.

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  6. Abstract

    Cell lines have become an integral resource and tool for conducting biological experiments ever since the Hela cell line was first developed (Scherer et al. in J Exp Med 97:695–710, 1953). They not only allow detailed investigation of molecular pathways but are faster and more cost-effective than most in vivo approaches. The last decade saw many emerging model systems strengthening basic science research. However, lack of genetic and molecular tools in these newer systems pose many obstacles.Astyanax mexicanusis proving to be an interesting new model system for understanding metabolic adaptation. To further enhance the utility of this system, we developed liver-derived cell lines from both surface-dwelling and cave-dwelling morphotypes. In this study, we provide detailed methodology of the derivation process along with comprehensive biochemical and molecular characterization of the cell lines, which reflect key metabolic traits of cavefish adaptation. We anticipate these cell lines to become a useful resource for theAstyanaxcommunity as well as researchers investigating fish biology, comparative physiology, and metabolism.

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