BACKGROUND: Gene expression regulation is one of the fundamental mechanisms of phenotypic plasticity and is expected to respond to selection in conditions favoring phenotypic response. The observation that many organisms increase their stress tolerance after acclimation to moderate levels of stress is an example of plasticity which has been long hypothesized to be based on adaptive changes in gene expression. We report genome-wide patterns of gene expression in two heat-tolerant and two heat-sensitive parthenogenetic clones of the zooplankton crustacean Daphnia pulex exposed for three generations to either optimal (18°C) or substressful (28°C) temperature.
RESULTS: A large number of genes responded to temperature and many demonstrated a significant genotype-by-environment (GxE) interaction. Among genes with a significant GxE there were approximately equally frequent instances of canalization, i.e. stronger plasticity in heat-sensitive than in heat-tolerant clones, and of enhancement of plasticity along the evolutionary vector toward heat tolerance. The strongest response observed is the across-the-board down-regulation of a variety of genes occurring in heat-tolerant, but not in heat-sensitive clones. This response is particularly obvious among genes involved in core metabolic pathways and those responsible for transcription, translation and DNA repair.
CONCLUSIONS: The observed down-regulation of metabolism, consistent with previous findings in yeast and Drosophila, may reflect a general compensatory stress response. The associated down-regulation of DNA repair pathways potentially creates a trade-off between short-term benefits of survival at high temperature and long-term costs of accelerated mutation accumulation.
- Gene Expression Regulation
- Gene-Environment Interaction
- Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
- Principal Component Analysis
- Gene expression
- Thermal tolerance
- Metabolic compensation