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Differential Expression of Genes That Control Respiration Contribute to Thermal Adaptation in Redband Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri)

Mar 30, 2016


Organisms can adapt to local environmental conditions as a plastic response or become adapted through natural selection on genetic variation. The ability to adapt to increased water temperatures will be of paramount importance for many fish species as the climate continues to warm and water resources become limited. Because increased water temperatures will reduce the dissolved oxygen available for fish, we hypothesized that adaptation to low oxygen environments would involve improved respiration through oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS).   To test this hypothesis, we subjected individuals from two ecologically divergent populations of inland (Redband) Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri) with historically different temperature regimes (desert and montane) and their F1 progeny to diel cycles of temperature stress and then examined gene expression data for 82 nuclear- and mitochondrial-encoded OXPHOS subunits that participate in respiration. Of the 82 transcripts, 7 showed ≥ 2 fold difference in expression levels in gill tissue from desert fish under heat stress while the montane fish had none and the F1 only had one differentially expressed gene. A structural analysis of the proteins encoded by those genes suggests the response could coordinate the formation of supercomplexes and oligomers.   Supercomplexes may increase the efficiency of respiration because complexes I, III, and IV are brought into close proximity and oligomerization of complex V alters the macro-structure of mitochondria to improve respiration. Significant differences in gene expression patterns in response to heat stress in a common environment indicate the response was not due to plasticity but had a genetic basis.


Michael Garvin, Gary Thorgaard, and Shawn Narum


Garvin, M.R., G.H. Thorgaard, S.R. Narum. 2015. Differential expression of genes that control respiration contribute to thermal adaptation in Redband Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri). Genome Biology and Evolution 7(6):1404-1414. Online at



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Journal Article