Transcriptome comparison reveals a genetic network regulating the lower temperature limit in fish

Sci Rep. 2016 Jun 30;6:28952. doi: 10.1038/srep28952.


Transcriptional plasticity is a major driver of phenotypic differences between species. The lower temperature limit (LTL), namely the lower end of survival temperature, is an important trait delimiting the geographical distribution of a species, however, the genetic mechanisms are poorly understood. We investigated the inter-species transcriptional diversification in cold responses between zebrafish Danio rerio and tilapia Oreochromis niloticus, which were reared at a common temperature (28 °C) but have distinct LTLs. We identified significant expressional divergence between the two species in the orthologous genes from gills when the temperature cooled to the LTL of tilapia (8 °C). Five KEGG pathways were found sequentially over-represented in the zebrafish/tilapia divergently expressed genes in the duration (12 hour) of 8 °C exposure, forming a signaling cascade from metabolic regulation to apoptosis via FoxO signaling. Consistently, we found differential progression of apoptosis in the gills of the two species in which zebrafish manifested a delayed and milder apoptotic phenotype than tilapia, corresponding with a lower LTL of zebrafish. We identified diverged expression in 25 apoptosis-related transcription factors between the two species which forms an interacting network with diverged factors involving the FoxO signaling and metabolic regulation. We propose a genetic network which regulates LTL in fishes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / genetics
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Tilapia / genetics
  • Tilapia / physiology
  • Zebrafish / genetics
  • Zebrafish / physiology