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Covariation of larval gene expression and adult body size in natural populations of Drosophila melanogaster

Bochdanovits, Z.án.; van der Klis, H.; de Jong, G.

Molecular Biology and Evolution 20(11): 1760-1766

2003


ISSN/ISBN: 0737-4038
PMID: 12832628
DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msg179
Accession: 011908327

Understanding adaptive phenotypic variation is one of the most fundamental problems in evolutionary biology. Genes involved in adaptation are most likely those that affect traits most intimately connected to fitness: life-history traits. The genetics of quantitative trait variation (including life histories) is still poorly understood, but several studies suggest that (1) quantitative variation might be the result of variation in gene expression, rather than protein evolution, and (2) natural variation in gene expression underlies adaptation. The next step in studying the genetics of adaptive phenotypic variation is therefore an analysis of naturally occuring covariation of global gene expression and a life-history trait. Here, we report a microarray study addressing the covariation in larval gene expression and adult body weight, a life-history trait involved in adaptation. Natural populations of Drosophila melanogaster show adaptive geographic variation in adult body size, with larger animals at higher latitudes. Conditions during larval development also affect adult size with larger flies emerging at lower temperatures. We found statistically significant differences in normalized larval gene expression between geographic populations at one temperature (genetic variation) and within geographic populations between temperatures (developmental plasticity). Moreover, larval gene expression correlated highly with adult weight, explaining 81% of its natural variation. Of the genes that show a correlation of gene expression with adult weight, most are involved in cell growth or cell maintenance or are associated with growth pathways.

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