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Genetic conflict in fish led to evolution of new sex chromosomes
Date:10/1/2009

s been leading research to identify the genetic basis for phenotypic differences in cichlids for the past 20 years, and who made the first crosses to map the gene responsible for this color pattern in 1993.

Depending on the surrounding natural background, this color pattern can help disguise female fish and help them avoid predation. However males who express this phenotype lack the species-specific color patterns used by females to select their mates. "This phenotype creates a sexual conflict because the allele is favored in females but not favored in males," explains Dr. Roberts, who fine mapped the gene. "In 'survival of the fittest,' the genes underlying a beneficial trait will increase in frequency, but this is an odd case where the trait is really good for females but really bad for males."

Using genomic techniques, Roberts identified the gene (pax7) that is responsible for this difference in color pattern. He found that the orange blotch (OB) allele that produces the variable pigmentation in females was dominant over the "brown barred" (BB) allele (that produces the more common brown pigmentation) and that it was located very near a female sex determiner (W). The genetic conflict that started over color was resolved by a new mutation that took over the sex determining function, and ensured that nearly all orange blotch fish are female.

"This study marries two evolutionary mysteries: the incredible diversity of fish in the lakes of East Africa and the genetic basis of sex determination," says Sam Scheiner, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research. "This study shows how simple genetic changes can lead to enormous biological diversity."


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Contact: Kelly Blake
kellyb@umd.edu
301-405-8203
University of Maryland
Source:Eurekalert  

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