Project description:Adaptation is driven by natural selection; however, many adaptations are caused by weak selection acting over large timescales, complicating its study. Therefore, it is rarely possible to study selection comprehensively in natural environments. The threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) is a well-studied model organism with a short generation time, small genome size, and many genetic and genomic tools available. Within this originally marine species, populations have recurrently adapted to freshwater all over its range. This evolution involved extensive parallelism: pre-existing alleles that adapt sticklebacks to freshwater habitats, but are also present at low frequencies in marine populations, have been recruited repeatedly. While a number of genomic regions responsible for this adaptation have been identified, the details of selection remain poorly understood. Using whole-genome resequencing, we compare pooled genomic samples from marine and freshwater populations of the White Sea basin, and identify 19 short genomic regions that are highly divergent between them, including three known inversions. 17 of these regions overlap protein-coding genes, including a number of genes with predicted functions that are relevant for adaptation to the freshwater environment. We then analyze four additional independently derived young freshwater populations of known ages, two natural and two artificially established, and use the observed shifts of allelic frequencies to estimate the strength of positive selection. Adaptation turns out to be quite rapid, indicating strong selection acting simultaneously at multiple regions of the genome, with selection coefficients of up to 0.27. High divergence between marine and freshwater genotypes, lack of reduction in polymorphism in regions responsible for adaptation, and high frequencies of freshwater alleles observed even in young freshwater populations are all consistent with rapid assembly of G. aculeatus freshwater genotypes from pre-existing genomic regions of adaptive variation, with strong selection that favors this assembly acting simultaneously at multiple loci.
Project description:Understanding how wild immune variation covaries with other traits can reveal how costs and trade-offs shape immune evolution in the wild. Divergent life history strategies may increase or alleviate immune costs, helping shape immune variation in a consistent, testable way. Contrasting hypotheses suggest that shorter life histories may alleviate costs by offsetting them against increased mortality, or increase the effect of costs if immune responses are traded off against development or reproduction. We investigated the evolutionary relationship between life history and immune responses within an island radiation of three-spined stickleback, with discrete populations of varying life histories and parasitism. We sampled two short-lived, two long-lived and an anadromous population using qPCR to quantify current immune profile and RAD-seq data to study the distribution of immune variants within our assay genes and across the genome. Short-lived populations exhibited significantly increased expression of all assay genes, which was accompanied by a strong association with population-level variation in local alleles and divergence in a gene that may be involved in complement pathways. In addition, divergence around the eda gene in anadromous fish is likely associated with increased inflammation. A wider analysis of 15 populations across the island revealed that immune genes across the genome show evidence of having diverged alongside life history strategies. Parasitism and reproductive investment were also important sources of variation for expression, highlighting the caution required when assaying immune responses in the wild. These results provide strong, gene-based support for current hypotheses linking life history and immune variation across multiple populations of a vertebrate model.
Project description:Much adaptive evolutionary change is underlain by mutational variation in regions of the genome that regulate gene expression rather than in the coding regions of the genes themselves. An understanding of the role of gene expression variation in facilitating local adaptation will be aided by an understanding of underlying regulatory networks. Here, we characterize the genetic architecture of gene expression variation in the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), an important model in the study of adaptive evolution. We collected transcriptomic and genomic data from 60 half-sib families using an expression microarray and genotyping-by-sequencing, and located expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) underlying the variation in gene expression in liver tissue using an interval mapping approach. We identified eQTL for several thousand expression traits. Expression was influenced by polymorphism in both cis- and trans-regulatory regions. Trans-eQTL clustered into hotspots. We did not identify master transcriptional regulators in hotspot locations: rather, the presence of hotspots may be driven by complex interactions between multiple transcription factors. One observed hotspot colocated with a QTL recently found to underlie salinity tolerance in the threespine stickleback. However, most other observed hotspots did not colocate with regions of the genome known to be involved in adaptive divergence between marine and freshwater habitats.