Background: There are a growing number of genomes sequenced with tentative functions assigned to a largeproportion of the individual genes. Model organisms in laboratory settings form the basis for the assignment ofgene function, and the ecological context of gene function is lacking. This work addresses this shortcoming byinvestigating expressed genes of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) muscle tissue. We compared morphologyand gene expression in natural juvenile sockeye populations related to river and lake habitats. Based on previouslydocumented divergent morphology, feeding strategy, and predation in association with these distinctenvironments, we expect that burst swimming is favored in riverine population and continuous swimming isfavored in lake-type population. In turn we predict that morphology and expressed genes promote burstswimming in riverine sockeye and continuous swimming in lake-type sockeye.Results: We found the riverine sockeye population had deep, robust bodies and lake-type had shallow,streamlined bodies. Gene expression patterns were measured using a 16K microarray, discovering 141 genes withsignificant differential expression. Overall, the identity and function of these genes was consistent with ourhypothesis. In addition, Gene Ontology (GO) enrichment analyses with a larger set of differentially expressed genesfound the “biosynthesis” category enriched for the riverine population and the “metabolism” category enriched forthe lake-type population.Conclusions: This study provides a framework for understanding sockeye life history from a transcriptomicperspective and a starting point for more extensive, targeted studies determining the ecological context of genes.
Pavey et al. BMC Ecology 2011, 11:31
Ecological Transcriptomics of Lake-Type and Riverine Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)
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