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1.  Ecological causes of morphological evolution in the three-spined stickleback 
Ecology and Evolution  2013;3(6):1717-1726.
The central assumption of evolutionary theory is that natural selection drives the adaptation of populations to local environmental conditions, resulting in the evolution of adaptive phenotypes. The three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) displays remarkable phenotypic variation, offering an unusually tractable model for understanding the ecological mechanisms underpinning adaptive evolutionary change. Using populations on North Uist, Scotland we investigated the role of predation pressure and calcium limitation on the adaptive evolution of stickleback morphology and behavior. Dissolved calcium was a significant predictor of plate and spine morph, while predator abundance was not. Stickleback latency to emerge from a refuge varied with morph, with populations with highly reduced plates and spines and high predation risk less bold. Our findings support strong directional selection in three-spined stickleback evolution, driven by multiple selective agents.
doi:10.1002/ece3.581
PMCID: PMC3686204  PMID: 23789080
Adaptation; calcium concentration; Gasterosteus aculeatus; natural selection; nuptial coloration; phenotypic adaptation; selective predation
2.  Characterization of the Zoarces viviparus liver transcriptome using massively parallel pyrosequencing 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:345.
Background
The teleost Zoarces viviparus (eelpout) lives along the coasts of Northern Europe and has long been an established model organism for marine ecology and environmental monitoring. The scarce information about this species genome has however restrained the use of efficient molecular-level assays, such as gene expression microarrays.
Results
In the present study we present the first comprehensive characterization of the Zoarces viviparus liver transcriptome. From 400,000 reads generated by massively parallel pyrosequencing, more than 50,000 pieces of putative transcripts were assembled, annotated and functionally classified. The data was estimated to cover roughly 40% of the total transcriptome and homologues for about half of the genes of Gasterosteus aculeatus (stickleback) were identified. The sequence data was consequently used to design an oligonucleotide microarray for large-scale gene expression analysis.
Conclusion
Our results show that one run using a Genome Sequencer FLX from 454 Life Science/Roche generates enough genomic information for adequate de novo assembly of a large number of genes in a higher vertebrate. The generated sequence data, including the validated microarray probes, are publicly available to promote genome-wide research in Zoarces viviparus.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-345
PMCID: PMC2725146  PMID: 19646242
3.  Ecological and Evolutionary Effects of Stickleback on Community Structure 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e59644.
Species’ ecology and evolution can have strong effects on communities. Both may change concurrently when species colonize a new ecosystem. We know little, however, about the combined effects of ecological and evolutionary change on community structure. We simultaneously examined the effects of top-predator ecology and evolution on freshwater community parameters using recently evolved generalist and specialist ecotypes of three-spine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). We used a mesocosm experiment to directly examine the effects of ecological (fish presence and density) and evolutionary (phenotypic diversity and specialization) factors on community structure at lower trophic levels. We evaluated zooplankton biomass and composition, periphyton and phytoplankton chlorophyll-a concentration, and net primary production among treatments containing different densities and diversities of stickleback. Our results showed that both ecological and evolutionary differences in the top-predator affect different aspects of community structure and composition. Community structure, specifically the abundance of organisms at each trophic level, was affected by stickleback presence and density, whereas composition of zooplankton was influenced by stickleback diversity and specialization. Primary productivity, in terms of chlorophyll-a concentration and net primary production was affected by ecological but not evolutionary factors. Our results stress the importance of concurrently evaluating both changes in density and phenotypic diversity on the structure and composition of communities.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059644
PMCID: PMC3616105  PMID: 23573203
4.  Brain Transcriptomic Response of Threespine Sticklebacks to Cues of a Predator 
Brain, Behavior and Evolution  2011;77(4):270-285.
Predation pressure represents a strong selective force that influences the development and evolution of living organisms. An increasing number of studies have shown that both environmental and social factors, including exposure to predators, substantially shape the structure and function of the brain. However, our knowledge about the molecular mechanisms underlying the response of the brain to environmental stimuli is limited. In this study, we used whole-genome comparative oligonucleotide microarrays to investigate the brain transcriptomic response to cues of a predator in the threespine stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus. We found that repeated exposure to olfactory, visual and tactile cues of a predator (rainbow trout, Oncorrhynchus mykiss) for 6 days resulted in subtle but significant transcriptomic changes in the brain of sticklebacks. Gene functional analysis and gene ontology enrichment revealed that the majority of the transcripts differentially expressed between the fish exposed to cues of a predator and the control group were related to antigen processing and presentation involving the major histocompatibility complex, transmission of synaptic signals, brain metabolic processes, gene regulation and visual perception. The top four identified pathways were synaptic long-term depression, RAN signaling, relaxin signaling and phototransduction. Our study demonstrates that exposure of sticklebacks to cues of a predator results in the activation of a wide range of biological and molecular processes and lays the foundation for future investigations on the molecular factors that modulate the function and evolution of the brain in response to stressors.
doi:10.1159/000328221
PMCID: PMC3182040  PMID: 21677424
Neurogenomics; Stress; Predation; Microarray; Gene expression; Gasterosteus aculeatus
5.  Karyotype Differentiation between Two Stickleback Species (Gasterosteidae) 
Cytogenetic and Genome Research  2011;135(2):150-159.
The stickleback family (Gasterosteidae) of fish is less than 40 million years old, yet stickleback species have diverged in both diploid chromosome number (2n) and morphology. We used comparative fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) on 2 stickleback species, Gasterosteus aculeatus (2n = 42) and Apeltes quadracus (2n = 46), to ascertain the types of chromosome rearrangements that differentiate these species. The A. quadracus karyotype contains more acrocentric and telocentric chromosomes than the G. aculeatus karyotype. By using bacterial artificial chromosome probes from G. aculeatus in our FISH screen, we found that 6 pericentric inversions and 2 chromosome fusions/fissions are responsible for the greater number of acrocentric and telocentric chromosomes in A. quadracus. While most populations of G. aculeatus have an XX/XY sex chromosome system, A. quadracus has a ZZ/ZW sex chromosome system, as previously reported. However, we discovered that a population of A. quadracus from Connecticut lacks heteromorphic sex chromosomes, providing evidence for unexpected sex chromosome diversity in this species.
doi:10.1159/000331232
PMCID: PMC3224509  PMID: 21921583
Chromosome evolution; Fish sex chromosome; Fluorescence in situ hybridization; Karyotype differentiation; Stickleback
6.  Genetic Architecture of Parallel Pelvic Reduction in Ninespine Sticklebacks 
G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics  2013;3(10):1833-1842.
Teleost fish genomes are known to be evolving faster than those of other vertebrate taxa. Thus, fish are suited to address the extent to which the same vs. different genes are responsible for similar phenotypic changes in rapidly evolving genomes of evolutionary independent lineages. To gain insights into the genetic basis and evolutionary processes behind parallel phenotypic changes within and between species, we identified the genomic regions involved in pelvic reduction in Northern European ninespine sticklebacks (Pungitius pungitius) and compared them to those of North American ninespine and threespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus). To this end, we conducted quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping using 283 F2 progeny from an interpopulation cross. Phenotypic analyses indicated that pelvic reduction is a recessive trait and is inherited in a simple Mendelian fashion. Significant QTL for pelvic spine and girdle lengths were identified in the region of the Pituitary homeobox transcription factor 1 (Pitx1) gene, also responsible for pelvic reduction in threespine sticklebacks. The fact that no QTL was observed in the region identified in the mapping study of North American ninespine sticklebacks suggests that an alternative QTL for pelvic reduction has emerged in this species within the past 1.6 million years after the split between Northern European and North American populations. In general, our study provides empirical support for the view that alternative genetic mechanisms that lead to similar phenotypes can evolve over short evolutionary time scales.
doi:10.1534/g3.113.007237
PMCID: PMC3789808  PMID: 23979937
chromosomal rearrangement; genetic convergence; linkage map; parallel evolution; QTL
7.  Social recognition in wild fish populations 
The ability of animals to gather information about their social and physical environment is essential for their ecological function. Odour cues are an important component of this information gathering across taxa. Recent laboratory studies have revealed the importance of flexible chemical cues in facilitating social recognition of fishes. These cues are known to be mediated by recent habitat experience and fishes are attracted to individuals that smell like themselves. However, to be relevant to wild populations, where animals may move and forage freely, these cues would have to be temporally flexible and allow spatial resolution. Here, we present data from a study of social recognition in wild populations of three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Focal fish preferentially associated with conspecifics from the same habitat as themselves. These preferences were changed and updated following translocation of the focal fish to a different site. Further investigation revealed that association preferences changed after 3 h of exposure to different habitat cues. In addition to temporal flexibility, the cues also allowed a high degree of spatial resolution: fish taken from sites 200 m apart produced cues that were sufficiently different to enable the focal fish to discriminate and associate with fish captured near their own home site. The adaptive benefits of this social recognition mechanism remain unclear, though they may allow fish to orient within their social environment and gain current local information.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.0231
PMCID: PMC2124469  PMID: 17284411
odour; olfactory; schooling; social organization
8.  Intraspecific competition drives increased resource use diversity within a natural population 
Resource competition is thought to play a major role in driving evolutionary diversification. For instance, in ecological character displacement, coexisting species evolve to use different resources, reducing the effects of interspecific competition. It is thought that a similar diversifying effect might occur in response to competition among members of a single species. Individuals may mitigate the effects of intraspecific competition by switching to use alternative resources not used by conspecific competitors. This diversification is the driving force in some models of sympatric speciation, but has not been demonstrated in natural populations. Here, we present experimental evidence confirming that competition drives ecological diversification within natural populations. We manipulated population density of three-spine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) in enclosures in a natural lake. Increased population density led to reduced prey availability, causing individuals to add alternative prey types to their diet. Since phenotypically different individuals added different alternative prey, diet variation among individuals increased relative to low-density control enclosures. Competition also increased the diet–morphology correlations, so that the frequency-dependent interactions were stronger in high competition. These results not only confirm that resource competition promotes niche variation within populations, but also show that this increased diversity can arise via behavioural plasticity alone, without the evolutionary changes commonly assumed by theory.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.0198
PMCID: PMC2093969  PMID: 17251094
diversification; Gasterosteus aculeatus; individual specialization; intraspecific competition; optimal foraging theory; negative frequency dependence
9.  Individual experience and evolutionary history of predation affect expression of heritable variation in fish personality and morphology 
Predation plays a central role in evolutionary processes, but little is known about how predators affect the expression of heritable variation, restricting our ability to predict evolutionary effects of predation. We reared families of three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus from two populations—one with a history of fish predation (predator sympatric) and one without (predator naive)—and experimentally manipulated experience of predators during ontogeny. For a suite of ecologically relevant behavioural (‘personality’) and morphological traits, we then estimated two key variance components, additive genetic variance (VA) and residual variance (VR), that jointly shape narrow-sense heritability (h2= VA/(VA + VR)). Both population and treatment differentially affected VA versus VR, hence h2, but only for certain traits. The predator-naive population generally had lower VA and h2 values than the predator-sympatric population for personality behaviours, but not morphological traits. Values of VR and h2 were increased for some, but decreased for other personality traits in the predator-exposed treatment. For some personality traits, VA and h2 values were affected by treatment in the predator-naive population, but not in the predator-sympatric population, implying that the latter harboured less genetic variation for behavioural plasticity.
Replication and experimental manipulation of predation regime are now needed to confirm that these population differences were related to variation in predator-induced selection. Cross-environment genetic correlations (rA) were tight for most traits, suggesting that predator-induced selection can affect the evolution of the same trait expressed in the absence of predators. The treatment effects on variance components imply that predators can affect evolution, not only by acting directly as selective agents, but also by influencing the expression of heritable variation.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.1555
PMCID: PMC2660958  PMID: 19129142
gene-environment interaction; plasticity; predation; personality; behavioural syndrome; additive genetic variance
10.  Adaptive Divergence in the Thyroid Hormone Signaling Pathway in the Stickleback Radiation 
Current biology : CB  2010;20(23):2124-2130.
Summary
During adaptive radiations, animals colonize diverse environments, which requires adaptation in multiple phenotypic traits [1]. Because hormones mediate the dynamic regulation of suites of phenotypic traits [2–4], evolutionary changes in hormonal signaling pathways might contribute to adaptation to new environments. Here, we report changes in the thyroid hormone signaling pathway in stream-resident ecotypes of threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus), which have repeatedly evolved from ancestral marine ecotypes [5–8]. Stream-resident fish exhibit a lower plasma concentration of thyroid hormone and a lower metabolic rate, which is likely adaptive for permanent residency in small streams. The thyroid stimulating hormone-β2 (TSHβ2) gene exhibited significantly lower mRNA expression in pituitary glands of stream-resident sticklebacks relative to marine sticklebacks. Some of the difference in TSHβ2 transcript levels can be explained by cis-regulatory differences at the TSHβ2 gene locus. Consistent with these expression differences, a strong signature of divergent natural selection was found at the TSHβ2 genomic locus. By contrast, there were no differences between the marine and stream-resident ecotypes in mRNA levels or genomic sequence in the paralogous TSHβ1 gene. Our data indicate that evolutionary changes in hormonal signaling have played an important role in the postglacial adaptive radiation of sticklebacks.
doi:10.1016/j.cub.2010.10.050
PMCID: PMC3053127  PMID: 21093265
11.  CATdb: a public access to Arabidopsis transcriptome data from the URGV-CATMA platform 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;36(Database issue):D986-D990.
CATdb is a free resource available at http://urgv.evry.inra.fr/CATdb that provides public access to a large collection of transcriptome data for Arabidopsis thaliana produced by a single Complete Arabidopsis Transcriptome Micro Array (CATMA) platform. CATMA probes consist of gene-specific sequence tags (GSTs) of 150–500 bp. The v2 version of CATMA contains 24 576 GST probes representing most of the predicted A. thaliana genes, and 615 probes tiling the chloroplastic and mitochondrial genomes. Data in CATdb are entirely processed with the same standardized protocol, from microarray printing to data analyses. CATdb contains the results of 53 projects including 1724 hybridized samples distributed between 13 different organs, 49 different developmental conditions, 45 mutants and 63 environmental conditions. All the data contained in CATdb can be downloaded from the web site and subsets of data can be sorted out and displayed either by keywords, by experiments, genes or lists of genes up to 100. CATdb gives an easy access to the complete description of experiments with a picture of the experiment design.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkm757
PMCID: PMC2238931  PMID: 17940091
12.  Habitat-specific adaptation of immune responses of stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) lake and river ecotypes 
Freshwater populations of three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) in northern Germany are found as distinct lake and river ecotypes. Adaptation to habitat-specific parasites might influence immune capabilities of stickleback ecotypes. Here, naive laboratory-bred sticklebacks from lake and river populations were exposed reciprocally to parasite environments in a lake and a river habitat. Sticklebacks exposed to lake conditions were infected with higher numbers of parasite species when compared with the river. River sticklebacks in the lake had higher parasite loads than lake sticklebacks in the same habitat. Respiratory burst, granulocyte counts and lymphocyte proliferation of head kidney leucocytes were increased in river sticklebacks exposed to lake when compared with river conditions. Although river sticklebacks exposed to lake conditions showed elevated activation of their immune system, parasites could not be diminished as effectively as by lake sticklebacks in their native habitat. River sticklebacks seem to have reduced their immune-competence potential due to lower parasite diversity in rivers.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2007.0210
PMCID: PMC2176159  PMID: 17426014
ecological immunology; Gasterosteus aculeatus; ecotypes; parasites; immune response; specific growth rate
13.  Mortality selection during the 2003 European heat wave in three-spined sticklebacks: effects of parasites and MHC genotype 
Background
Ecological interaction strength may increase under environmental stress including temperature. How such stress enhances and interacts with parasite selection is almost unknown. We studied the importance of resistance genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II in 14 families of three-spined sticklebacks Gasterosteus aculeatus exposed to their natural macroparasites in field enclosures in the extreme summer of 2003.
Results
After a mass die-off during the 2003-European heat wave killing 78% of 277 experimental fish, we found strong differences in survival among and within families. In families with higher average parasite load fewer individuals survived. Multivariate analysis revealed that the composition of the infecting parasite fauna was family specific. Within families, individuals with an intermediate number of MHC class IIB sequence variants survived best and had the lowest parasite load among survivors, suggesting a direct functional link between MHC diversity and fitness. The within family MHC effects were, however, small compared to between family effects, suggesting that other genetic components or non-genetic effects were also important.
Conclusion
The correlation between parasite load and mortality that we found at both individual and family level might have appeared only in the extraordinary heatwave of 2003. Due to global warming the frequency of extreme climatic events is predicted to increase, which might intensify costs of parasitism and enhance selection on immune genes.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-124
PMCID: PMC2386451  PMID: 18447901
14.  Extensive lineage-specific gene duplication and evolution of the spiggin multi-gene family in stickleback 
Background
The threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) has a characteristic reproductive mode; mature males build nests using a secreted glue-like protein called spiggin. Although recent studies reported multiple occurrences of genes that encode this glue-like protein spiggin in threespine and ninespine sticklebacks, it is still unclear how many genes compose the spiggin multi-gene family.
Results
Genome sequence analysis of threespine stickleback showed that there are at least five spiggin genes and two pseudogenes, whereas a single spiggin homolog occurs in the genomes of other fishes. Comparative genome sequence analysis demonstrated that Muc19, a single-copy mucous gene in human and mouse, is an ortholog of spiggin. Phylogenetic and molecular evolutionary analyses of these sequences suggested that an ancestral spiggin gene originated from a member of the mucin gene family as a single gene in the common ancestor of teleosts, and gene duplications of spiggin have occurred in the stickleback lineage. There was inter-population variation in the copy number of spiggin genes and positive selection on some codons, indicating that additional gene duplication/deletion events and adaptive evolution at some amino acid sites may have occurred in each stickleback population.
Conclusion
A number of spiggin genes exist in the threespine stickleback genome. Our results provide insight into the origin and dynamic evolutionary process of the spiggin multi-gene family in the threespine stickleback lineage. The dramatic evolution of genes for mucous substrates may have contributed to the generation of distinct characteristics such as "bio-glue" in vertebrates.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-209
PMCID: PMC2180178  PMID: 17980047
15.  Spatial phenotypic and genetic structure of threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) in a heterogeneous natural system, Lake Mývatn, Iceland 
Ecology and Evolution  2013;3(10):3219-3232.
Eco-evolutionary responses of natural populations to spatial environmental variation strongly depend on the relative strength of environmental differences/natural selection and dispersal/gene flow. In absence of geographic barriers, as often is the case in lake ecosystems, gene flow is expected to constrain adaptive divergence between environments – favoring phenotypic plasticity or high trait variability. However, if divergent natural selection is sufficiently strong, adaptive divergence can occur in face of gene flow. The extent of divergence is most often studied between two contrasting environments, whereas potential for multimodal divergence is little explored. We investigated phenotypic (body size, defensive structures, and feeding morphology) and genetic (microsatellites) structure in threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) across five habitat types and two basins (North and South) within the geologically young and highly heterogeneous Lake Mývatn, North East Iceland. We found that (1) North basin stickleback were, on average, larger and had relatively longer spines than South basin stickleback, whereas (2) feeding morphology (gill raker number and gill raker gap width) differed among three of five habitat types, and (3) there was only subtle genetic differentiation across the lake. Overall, our results indicate predator and prey mediated phenotypic divergence across multiple habitats in the lake, in face of gene flow.
doi:10.1002/ece3.712
PMCID: PMC3797472  PMID: 24223263
Defense traits; feeding morphology; genetic divergence; microsatellite; phenotypic divergence
16.  A Comparative BAC Map for the Gilthead Sea Bream (Sparus aurata L.) 
This study presents the first comparative BAC map of the gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata), a highly valuated marine aquaculture fish species in the Mediterranean. High-throughput end sequencing of a BAC library yielded 92,468 reads (60.6 Mbp). Comparative mapping was achieved by anchoring BAC end sequences to the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) genome. BACs that were consistently ordered along the stickleback chromosomes accounted for 14,265 clones. A fraction of 5,249 BACs constituted a minimal tiling path that covers 73.5% of the stickleback chromosomes and 70.2% of the genes that have been annotated. The N50 size of 1,485 “BACtigs” consisting of redundant BACs is 337,253 bp. The largest BACtig covers 2.15 Mbp in the stickleback genome. According to the insert size distribution of mapped BACs the sea bream genome is 1.71-fold larger than the stickleback genome. These results represent a valuable tool to researchers in the field and may support future projects to elucidate the whole sea bream genome.
doi:10.1155/2011/329025
PMCID: PMC2964914  PMID: 21049003
17.  Ecological release from interspecific competition leads to decoupled changes in population and individual niche width 
A species's niche width reflects a balance between the diversifying effects of intraspecific competition and the constraining effects of interspecific competition. This balance shifts when a species from a competitive environment invades a depauperate habitat where interspecific competition is reduced. The resulting ecological release permits population niche expansion, via increased individual niche widths and/or increased among-individual variation. We report an experimental test of the theory of ecological release in three-spine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). We factorially manipulated the presence or absence of two interspecific competitors: juvenile cut-throat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki) and prickly sculpin (Cottus asper). Consistent with the classic niche variation hypothesis, release from trout competition increased stickleback population niche width via increased among-individual variation, while individual niche widths remained unchanged. In contrast, release from sculpin competition had no effect on population niche width, because increased individual niche widths were offset by decreased between-individual variation. Our results confirm that ecological release from interspecific competition can lead to increases in niche width, and that these changes can occur on behavioural time scales. Importantly, we find that changes in population niche width are decoupled from changes in the niche widths of individuals within the population.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.0018
PMCID: PMC2871882  PMID: 20164100
ecological release; Gasterosteus aculeatus; individual specialization; interspecific competition; niche variation hypothesis; three-spine stickleback
18.  Turnover of Sex Chromosomes in the Stickleback Fishes (Gasterosteidae) 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(2):e1000391.
Diverse sex-chromosome systems are found in vertebrates, particularly in teleost fishes, where different systems can be found in closely related species. Several mechanisms have been proposed for the rapid turnover of sex chromosomes, including the transposition of an existing sex-determination gene, the appearance of a new sex-determination gene on an autosome, and fusions between sex chromosomes and autosomes. To better understand these evolutionary transitions, a detailed comparison of sex chromosomes between closely related species is essential. Here, we used genetic mapping and molecular cytogenetics to characterize the sex-chromosome systems of multiple stickleback species (Gasterosteidae). Previously, we demonstrated that male threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus) have a heteromorphic XY pair corresponding to linkage group (LG) 19. In this study, we found that the ninespine stickleback (Pungitius pungitius) has a heteromorphic XY pair corresponding to LG12. In black-spotted stickleback (G. wheatlandi) males, one copy of LG12 has fused to the LG19-derived Y chromosome, giving rise to an X1X2Y sex-determination system. In contrast, neither LG12 nor LG19 is linked to sex in two other species: the brook stickleback (Culaea inconstans) and the fourspine stickleback (Apeltes quadracus). However, we confirmed the existence of a previously reported heteromorphic ZW sex-chromosome pair in the fourspine stickleback. The sex-chromosome diversity that we have uncovered in sticklebacks provides a rich comparative resource for understanding the mechanisms that underlie the rapid turnover of sex-chromosome systems.
Author Summary
Sex chromosomes have independently evolved many times in animals, plants, and fungi. Although some sex chromosomes have been maintained across different species for over a hundred million years, there are other systems in which sex chromosomes appear to turn over within a few million years. Because sex determination is such a fundamental biological process, this rapid turnover of sex chromosomes is puzzling. Theoretical work has attempted to identify the mechanisms that might underlie the transitions between sex-chromosome systems. However, there are few empirical data to test these hypotheses. In this study, we have uncovered an unanticipated diversity of sex-chromosome systems in the stickleback fishes (Gasterosteidae). We have found that each stickleback species examined has a unique sex-chromosome system, with evidence for two independent XY systems, a derived Y-autosome fusion that has created an X1X2Y neo-sex chromosome, and a ZW system. Thus, stickleback fishes are excellent model species for investigating the mechanisms that lead to rapid turnover of sex chromosomes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000391
PMCID: PMC2638011  PMID: 19229325
19.  Utility of sequenced genomes for microsatellite marker development in non-model organisms: a case study of functionally important genes in nine-spined sticklebacks (Pungitius pungitius) 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:334.
Background
Identification of genes involved in adaptation and speciation by targeting specific genes of interest has become a plausible strategy also for non-model organisms. We investigated the potential utility of available sequenced fish genomes to develop microsatellite (cf. simple sequence repeat, SSR) markers for functionally important genes in nine-spined sticklebacks (Pungitius pungitius), as well as cross-species transferability of SSR primers from three-spined (Gasterosteus aculeatus) to nine-spined sticklebacks. In addition, we examined the patterns and degree of SSR conservation between these species using their aligned sequences.
Results
Cross-species amplification success was lower for SSR markers located in or around functionally important genes (27 out of 158) than for those randomly derived from genomic (35 out of 101) and cDNA (35 out of 87) libraries. Polymorphism was observed at a large proportion (65%) of the cross-amplified loci independently of SSR type. To develop SSR markers for functionally important genes in nine-spined sticklebacks, SSR locations were surveyed in or around 67 target genes based on the three-spined stickleback genome and these regions were sequenced with primers designed from conserved sequences in sequenced fish genomes. Out of the 81 SSRs identified in the sequenced regions (44,084 bp), 57 exhibited the same motifs at the same locations as in the three-spined stickleback. Di- and trinucleotide SSRs appeared to be highly conserved whereas mononucleotide SSRs were less so. Species-specific primers were designed to amplify 58 SSRs using the sequences of nine-spined sticklebacks.
Conclusions
Our results demonstrated that a large proportion of SSRs are conserved in the species that have diverged more than 10 million years ago. Therefore, the three-spined stickleback genome can be used to predict SSR locations in the nine-spined stickleback genome. While cross-species utility of SSR primers is limited due to low amplification success, SSR markers can be developed for target genes and genomic regions using our approach, which should be also applicable to other non-model organisms. The SSR markers developed in this study should be useful for identification of genes responsible for phenotypic variation and adaptive divergence of nine-spined stickleback populations, as well as for constructing comparative gene maps of nine-spined and three-spined sticklebacks.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-334
PMCID: PMC2891615  PMID: 20507571
20.  Construction and evaluation of a whole genome microarray of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:579.
Background
Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is widely accepted as a model organism regarding photosynthesis, circadian rhythm, cell mobility, phototaxis, and biotechnology. The complete annotation of the genome allows transcriptomic studies, however a new microarray platform was needed. Based on the completed annotation of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii a new microarray on an Agilent platform was designed using an extended JGI 3.1 genome data set which included 15000 transcript models.
Results
In total 44000 probes were determined (3 independent probes per transcript model) covering 93% of the transcriptome. Alignment studies with the recently published AUGUSTUS 10.2 annotation confirmed 11000 transcript models resulting in a very good coverage of 70% of the transcriptome (17000). Following the estimation of 10000 predicted genes in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii our new microarray, nevertheless, covers the expected genome by 90-95%.
Conclusions
To demonstrate the capabilities of the new microarray, we analyzed transcript levels for cultures grown under nitrogen as well as sulfate limitation, and compared the results with recently published microarray and RNA-seq data. We could thereby confirm previous results derived from data on nutrient-starvation induced gene expression of a group of genes related to protein transport and adaptation of the metabolism as well as genes related to efficient light harvesting, light energy distribution and photosynthetic electron transport.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-579
PMCID: PMC3235179  PMID: 22118351
21.  Female sticklebacks transfer information via eggs: effects of maternal experience with predators on offspring 
There is growing evidence that maternal experience influences offspring via non-genetic mechanisms. When female three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) were exposed to the threat of predation, they produced larger eggs with higher cortisol content, which consumed more oxygen shortly after fertilization compared with a control group. As juveniles, the offspring of predator-exposed mothers exhibited tighter shoaling behaviour, an antipredator defence. We did not detect an effect of maternal exposure to predation risk on the somatic growth of fry. Altogether, we found that exposure to an ecologically relevant stressor during egg formation had several long-lasting consequences for offspring, some of which might be mediated by exposure to maternally derived cortisol. These results support the hypothesis that female sticklebacks might influence the development, growth and behaviour of their offspring via eggs to match their future environment.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.1819
PMCID: PMC3081764  PMID: 21068041
maternal effects; egg size; antipredator behaviour; metabolic rate; stickleback; cortisol
22.  Induction of diploid gynogenesis in an evolutionary model organism, the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) 
Background
Rapid advances in genomics have provided nearly complete genome sequences for many different species. However, no matter how the sequencing technology has improved, natural genetic polymorphism complicates the production of high quality reference genomes. To address this problem, researchers have tried using artificial modes of genome manipulation such as gynogenesis for fast production of inbred lines.
Results
Here, we present the first successful induction of diploid gynogenesis in an evolutionary model system, the three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus), using a combination of UV-irradiation of the sperm and heat shock (HS) of the resulting embryo to inhibit the second meiotic division. Optimal UV irradiation of the sperm was established by exposing stickleback sperm to a UV- light source at various times. Heat shock parameters like temperature, duration, and time of initiation were tested by subjecting eggs fertilized with UV inactivated sperm 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 minutes post fertilization (mpf) to 30°C, 34°C, or 38°C for 2, 4, 6 or 8 minutes. Gynogen yield was highest when stickleback eggs were activated with 2 minutes UV-irradiated sperm and received HS 5 mpf at 34°C for 4 minutes.
Conclusions
Diploid gynogenesis has been successfully performed in three-spined stickleback. This has been confirmed by microsatellite DNA analysis which revealed exclusively maternal inheritance in all gynogenetic fry tested. Ploidy verification by flow cytometry showed that gynogenetic embryos/larvae exhibiting abnormalities were haploids and those that developed normally were diploids, i.e., double haploids that can be raised until adult size.
doi:10.1186/1471-213X-11-55
PMCID: PMC3189158  PMID: 21910888
23.  Housekeeping genes for quantitative expression studies in the three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus 
Background
During the last years the quantification of immune response under immunological challenges, e.g. parasitation, has been a major focus of research. In this context, the expression of immune response genes in teleost fish has been surveyed for scientific and commercial purposes. Despite the fact that it was shown in teleostei and other taxa that the gene for beta-actin is not the most stably expressed housekeeping gene (HKG), depending on the tissue and experimental treatment, the gene has been used as a reference gene in such studies. In the three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus, other HKG than the one for beta-actin have not been established so far.
Results
To establish a reliable method for the measurement of immune gene expression in Gasterosteus aculeatus, sequences from the now available genome database and an EST library of the same species were used to select oligonucleotide primers for HKG, in order to perform quantitative reverse-transcription (RT) PCR. The expression stability of ten candidate reference genes was evaluated in three different tissues, and in five parasite treatment groups, using the three algorithms BestKeeper, geNorm and NormFinder. Our results showed that in most of the tissues and treatments HKG that could not be used so far due to unknown sequences, proved to be more stably expressed than the one for beta-actin.
Conclusion
As they were the most stably expressed genes in all tissues examined, we suggest using the genes for the L13a ribosomal binding protein and ubiquitin as alternative or additional reference genes in expression analysis in Gasterosteus aculeatus.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-9-18
PMCID: PMC2254436  PMID: 18230138
24.  Species difference in adaptive use of public information in sticklebacks. 
Animals foraging on variable food sources can refine their estimates of patch quality by monitoring the success of others (i.e. collect 'public information'). Here, we show that both three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and nine-spined sticklebacks (Pungitius pungitius) use past cues provided by others to locate food but only nine-spined sticklebacks use prior public information to assess patch quality, regardless of whether demonstrators were conspecifics or heterospecifics. Moreover, nine-spined but not three-spined sticklebacks preferentially hid in vegetation during the demonstration, a position from which they could observe both patches simultaneously and collect public information. We conclude that species differences in the use of public information can be explained by variations in habitat choice and response to predation. Our findings expand current understanding of the scope of public-information use in animals by showing that fishes can use public-information in a foraging context and from heterospecifics. The study suggests that public-information use is an adaptation that allows animals vulnerable to predation to acquire valuable foraging information at low risk.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2003.2525
PMCID: PMC1691509  PMID: 14667359
25.  High degree of sex chromosome differentiation in stickleback fishes 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:474.
Background
Studies of closely related species with different sex chromosome systems can provide insights into the processes of sex chromosome differentiation and evolution. To investigate the potential utility of molecular markers in studying sex chromosome differentiation at early stages of their divergence, we examined the levels and patterns of genetic differentiation between sex chromosomes in nine-spined (Pungitius pungitius) and three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) using microsatellite markers.
Results
A set of novel microsatellite markers spanning the entire length of the sex chromosomes were developed for nine-spined sticklebacks using the sequenced genomes of other fish species. Sex-specific patterns of genetic variability and male-specific alleles were identified at most of these loci, indicating a high degree of differentiation between the X and Y chromosomes in nine-spined sticklebacks. In three-spined sticklebacks, male-specific alleles were detected at some loci confined to two chromosomal regions. In addition, male-specific null alleles were identified at several other loci, implying the absence of Y chromosomal alleles at these loci. Overall, male-specific alleles and null alleles were found over a region spanning 81% of the sex chromosomes in three-spined sticklebacks.
Conclusions
High levels but distinct patterns of sex chromosome differentiation were uncovered in the stickleback species that diverged 13 million years ago. Our results suggest that the Y chromosome is highly degenerate in three-spined sticklebacks, but not in nine-spined sticklebacks. In general, the results demonstrate that microsatellites can be useful in identifying the degree and patterns of sex chromosome differentiation in species at initial stages of sex chromosome evolution.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-474
PMCID: PMC3201943  PMID: 21958112

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