Understanding the molecular basis of the phenotype is key to understanding adaptation, and the relationship between genes and specific traits is represented by the genotype-phenotype map. The specialization of the venom-gland towards toxin production enables the use of transcriptomics to identify a large number of loci that contribute to a complex phenotype (i.e., venom), while proteomic techniques allow verification of the secretion of the proteins produced by these loci, creating a genotype-phenotype map. We used the extensive database of mRNA transcripts generated by the venom-gland transcriptome of Crotalus adamanteus along with proteomic techniques to complete the genotype-phenotype map for the C. adamanteus venom system. Nanospray LC/MS(E) analysis of a whole venom sample identified evidence for 52 of the 78 unique putative toxin transcript clusters, including 44 of the 50 most highly expressed transcripts. Tandem mass spectrometry and SDS-PAGE of reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography fractions identified 40 toxins which clustered into 20 groups and represented 10 toxin families, creating a genotype-phenotype map. By using the transcriptome to understand the proteome we were able to achieve locus-specific resolution and provide a detailed characterization of the C. adamanteus venom system.
Biological significance: Identifying the mechanisms by which genetic variation presents itself to the sieve of selection at the phenotypic level is key to understanding the molecular basis of adaptation, and the first step in understanding this relationship is to identify the genetic basis of the phenotype through the construction of a genotype-phenotype map. We used the high-throughput venom-gland transcriptomic characterization of the eastern diamondback rattlesnake (C. adamanteus) and proteomic techniques to complete and confirm the genotype-phenotype map, providing a detailed characterization of the C. adamanteus venom system.
Keywords: Crotalus adamanteus; Genotype–phenotype map; Liquid chromatography; Mass spectrometry; Snake venomics; Transcriptomics.
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