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  1. 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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  2. Abstract

    Evolution in similar environments often leads to convergence of behavioral and anatomical traits. A classic example of convergent trait evolution is the reduced traits that characterize many cave animals: reduction or loss of pigmentation and eyes. While these traits have evolved many times, relatively little is known about whether these traits repeatedly evolve through the same or different molecular and developmental mechanisms. The small freshwater fish,Astyanax mexicanus, provides an opportunity to investigate the repeated evolution of cave traits.A. mexicanusexists as two forms, a sighted, surface‐dwelling form and at least 29 populations of a blind, cave‐dwelling form that initially develops eyes that subsequently degenerate. We compared eye morphology and the expression of eye regulatory genes in developing surface fish and two independently evolved cavefish populations, Pachón and Molino. We found that many of the previously described molecular and morphological alterations that occur during eye development in Pachón cavefish are also found in Molino cavefish. However, for many of these traits, the Molino cavefish have a less severe phenotype than Pachón cavefish. Further, cave–cave hybrid fish have larger eyes and lenses during early development compared with fish from either parental population, suggesting that some different changes underlie eye loss in these two populations. Together, these data support the hypothesis that these two cavefish populations evolved eye loss independently, yet through some of the same developmental and molecular mechanisms.

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  3. Kern, A (Ed.)
    Abstract The growing use of genomics in diverse organisms provides the basis for identifying genomic and transcriptional differences across species and experimental conditions. Databases containing genomic and functional data have played critical roles in the development of numerous genetic models but most emerging models lack such databases. The Mexican tetra, Astyanax mexicanus exists as 2 morphs: surface-dwelling and cave-dwelling. There exist at least 30 cave populations, providing a system to study convergent evolution. We have generated a web-based analysis suite that integrates datasets from different studies to identify how gene transcription and genetic markers of selection differ between populations and across experimental contexts. Results of diverse studies can be analyzed in conjunction with other genetic data (e.g. Gene Ontology information), to enable biological inference from cross-study patterns and identify future avenues of research. Furthermore, the framework that we have built for A. mexicanus can be adapted for other emerging model systems. 
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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. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Identifying the genetic factors that underlie complex traits is central to understanding the mechanistic underpinnings of evolution. Cave-dwelling Astyanax mexicanus populations are well adapted to subterranean life and many populations appear to have evolved troglomorphic traits independently, while the surface-dwelling populations can be used as a proxy for the ancestral form. Here we present a high-resolution, chromosome-level surface fish genome, enabling the first genome-wide comparison between surface fish and cavefish populations. Using this resource, we performed quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping analyses and found new candidate genes for eye loss such as dusp26 . We used CRISPR gene editing in A. mexicanus to confirm the essential role of a gene within an eye size QTL, rx3 , in eye formation. We also generated the first genome-wide evaluation of deletion variability across cavefish populations to gain insight into this potential source of cave adaptation. The surface fish genome reference now provides a more complete resource for comparative, functional and genetic studies of drastic trait differences within a species. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
    Variation in complex traits is the result of contributions from many loci of small effect. Based on this principle, genomic prediction methods are used to make predictions of breeding value for an individual using genome-wide molecular markers. In breeding, genomic prediction models have been used in plant and animal breeding for almost two decades to increase rates of genetic improvement and reduce the length of artificial selection experiments. However, evolutionary genomics studies have been slow to incorporate this technique to select individuals for breeding in a conservation context or to learn more about the genetic architecture of traits, the genetic value of missing individuals or microevolution of breeding values. Here, we outline the utility of genomic prediction and provide an overview of the methodology. We highlight opportunities to apply genomic prediction in evolutionary genetics of wild populations and the best practices when using these methods on field-collected phenotypes. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
    Image-based cell classification has become a common tool to identify phenotypic changes in cell populations. However, this methodology is limited to organisms possessing well characterized species-specific reagents (e.g., antibodies) that allow cell identification, clustering and convolutional neural network (CNN) training. In the absence of such reagents, the power of image-based classification has remained mostly off-limits to many research organisms. We have developed an image-based classification methodology we named Image3C (Image-Cytometry Cell Classification) that does not require species-specific reagents nor pre-existing knowledge about the sample. Image3C combines image-based flow cytometry with an unbiased, high-throughput cell cluster pipeline and CNN integration. Image3C exploits intrinsic cellular features and non-species-specific dyes to perform de novo cell composition analysis and to detect changes in cellular composition between different conditions. Therefore, Image3C expands the use of imaged-based analyses of cell population composition to research organisms in which detailed cellular phenotypes are unknown or for which species-specific reagents are not available. 
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  8. Fay, Justin C. (Ed.)
    Circadian rhythms are nearly ubiquitous throughout nature, suggesting they are critical for survival in diverse environments. Organisms inhabiting largely arrhythmic environments, such as caves, offer a unique opportunity to study the evolution of circadian rhythms in response to changing ecological pressures. Populations of the Mexican tetra, Astyanax mexicanus , have repeatedly invaded caves from surface rivers, where individuals must contend with perpetual darkness, reduced food availability, and limited fluctuations in daily environmental cues. To investigate the molecular basis for evolved changes in circadian rhythms, we investigated rhythmic transcription across multiple independently-evolved cavefish populations. Our findings reveal that evolution in a cave environment has led to the repeated disruption of the endogenous biological clock, and its entrainment by light. The circadian transcriptome shows widespread reductions and losses of rhythmic transcription and changes to the timing of the activation/repression of core-transcriptional clock. In addition to dysregulation of the core clock, we find that rhythmic transcription of the melatonin regulator aanat2 and melatonin rhythms are disrupted in cavefish under darkness. Mutants of aanat2 and core clock gene rorca disrupt diurnal regulation of sleep in A . mexicanus , phenocopying circadian modulation of sleep and activity phenotypes of cave populations. Together, these findings reveal multiple independent mechanisms for loss of circadian rhythms in cavefish populations and provide a platform for studying how evolved changes in the biological clock can contribute to variation in sleep and circadian behavior. 
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