Parallel transcriptome evolution in stream threespine sticklebacks

Jun Kitano, Asano Ishikawa, Makoto Kusakabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Natural selection can cause similar phenotypic evolution in phylogenetically independent lineages inhabiting similar environments. Compared to morphological, behavioral, and physiological traits, little is known about the parallel evolution of transcriptome. Furthermore, the relative contribution of cis- and trans-regulatory changes to parallel transcriptome evolution largely remains unclear. The threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus) is a great model for studying parallel evolution because its ancestral marine populations independently colonized freshwater habitats in multiple geographical regions, resulting in independent pairs of marine and freshwater ecotypes in each region. Here, we investigated transcriptomic parallelism among the marine and stream ecotypes of Japanese and Canadian threespine sticklebacks by conducting common garden experiments and microarray analysis of the brain, which controls several physiological and behavioral traits differing between these ecotypes. We found parallel expression differences in 103 genes, including those encoding the enzymes involved in taurine synthesis and glycoprotein hydrolysis. The number of genes differentially expressed in parallel was significantly larger than the number of genes showing an antiparallel pattern (71 genes). To investigate the genetic architecture underlying transcriptome divergence, we re-analyzed the previous expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) data and found that most eQTLs were located on the same chromosome as the transcripts, possibly in cis-regulatory regions. Furthermore, the effect sizes of the eQTLs on the same chromosomes were larger than those on different chromosomes. Thus, we found that divergence in the brain transcriptome between the ecotypes shows parallelism and is mainly caused by genetic changes occurring on the same chromosome as the target genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-113
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopment Growth and Differentiation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jan
Externally publishedYes


  • CSAD
  • cis-regulatory changes
  • convergent evolution
  • gene expression
  • trans-regulatory changes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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