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Genetic analysis of cavefish reveals more about evolution

ities: the two cave populations had the same mutation in the same gene, they showed different mutations in the same gene, or they had mutations in distinct but closely linked genes. To clarify their results, the researchers performed a complementation test fish in both caves, which yielded only albino offspring. They concluded that albinism in these two cave populations and in a third population not yet as well studied is caused by mutations in the same gene. Subsequent analyses revealed that Oca2 is the gene responsible for pigmentation in the cavefish and that the deletion of a specific exon, or protein- coding DNA sequence, produced albinism.

What remains a mystery is why the same gene should be mutated independently in all three populations when other genes are also known to cause albinism and why it should be the same gene that causes the most common form of albinism in humans. One possibility, suggested by the researchers, is that it is a large gene presenting a big target for mutations, and it seems to have no other functions besides helping to make melanin. Therefore, it doesn't diminish other aspects of fitness when it is mutated.


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Source:New York University


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