The role of microRNAs in the repeated parallel diversification of lineages of midas cichlid fish from Nicaragua

Paolo Franchini, Peiwen Xiong, Carmelo Fruciano, Axel Meyer*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Cichlid fishes are an ideal model system for studying biological diversification because they provide textbook examples of rapid speciation. To date, there has been little focus on the role of gene regulation during cichlid speciation. However, in recent years, gene regulation has been recognized as a powerful force linking diversification in gene function to speciation. Here, we investigated the potential role of miRNA regulation in the diversification of six cichlid species of the Midas cichlid lineage (Amphilophus spp.) inhabiting the Nicaraguan crater lakes. Using several genomic resources, we inferred 236 Midas miRNA genes that were used to predict the miRNA target sites on 8,232 Midas 3'-UTRs.Using population genomic calculations of SNP diversity, we found them iRNA genes to be more conserved than protein coding genes. In contrast to what has been observed in other cichlid fish, but similar to what has been typically found in other groups,we observed genomic signatures of purifying selection on them iRNA targets by comparing these sites with the less conserved nontarget portion of the 3'-UTRs. However, in one species pair that has putatively speciated sympatrically in crater Lake Apoyo, were covered a different pattern of relaxed purifying selection and high genetic divergence atmiRNA targets. Our results suggest that sequence evolution at miRNA binding sites could be a critical genomic mechanism contributing to the rapid phenotypic evolution of Midas cichlids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1543-1555
Number of pages13
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Volume8
Issue number5
Early online date29 Apr 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016

Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Gene regulation
  • miRNA
  • Neotropical cichlids
  • Purifying selection
  • Sympatric speciation

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