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Title: Evidence of Selection in the Ectodysplasin Pathway among Endangered Aquatic Mammals
Authors: Font-Porterias, Neus
McNelis, Madeline G.
Comas, David
Hlusko, Leslea J.
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Citation: Integrative Organismal Biology, 4(1), obac018
Abstract: The ectodysplasin pathway has been a target of evolution repeatedly. Genetic variation in the key genes of this pathway (EDA, EDAR, and EDARADD) results in a rich source of pleiotropic effects across ectodermally-derived structures, including teeth, hair, sweat glands, and mammary glands. In addition, a non-canonical Wnt pathway has a very similar functional role, making variation in the WNT10A gene also of evolutionary significance. The adaptation of mammals to aquatic environments has occurred independently in at least 4 orders, whose species occupy a wide geographic range (from equatorial to polar regions) and exhibit great phenotypic variation in ectodermally-derived structures, including the presence or absence of fur and extreme lactational strategies. The role of the ectodysplasin pathway in the adaptation to aquatic environments has been never explored in mammalian species. In the present study, we analyze the genetic variation in orthologous coding sequences from EDA, EDAR, EDARADD, and WNT10A genes together with ectodermally-derived phenotypic variation from 34 aquatic and non-aquatic mammalian species to assess signals of positive selection, gene-trait coevolution, and genetic convergence. Our study reveals strong evidence of positive selection in a proportion of coding sites in EDA and EDAR genes in 3 endangered aquatic mammals (the Hawaiian monk seal, the Yangtze finless porpoise, and the sea otter). We hypothesize functional implications potentially related to the adaptation to the low-latitude aquatic environment in the Hawaiian monk seal and the freshwater in the Yangtze finless porpoise. The signal in the sea otter is likely the result of an increased genetic drift after an intense bottleneck and reduction of genetic diversity. Besides positive selection, we have not detected robust signals of gene-trait coevolution or convergent amino acid shifts in the ectodysplasin pathway associated with shared phenotypic traits among aquatic mammals. This study provides new evidence of the evolutionary role of the ectodysplasin pathway and encourages further investigation, including functional studies, to fully resolve its relationship with mammalian aquatic adaptation.
ISSN: 2517-4843
DOI: 10.1093/iob/obac018
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Type: Article
Appears in Collections:Paleobiología

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