Spatial characterization of visual opsin gene expression in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata)

Date

2011-11-03

Authors

Rennison, Diana Jessie

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Abstract

Guppies exhibit color based sexual dimorphism and females generally prefer the most colorful males. It has also recently been found that guppies possess a large opsin repertoire. As opsins are the receptors responsible for color vision, this ten gene repertoire might have contributed to the evolution of extravagant male coloration in this species. My study starts by characterizing the opsin repertoire of Jenynsia onca, a noncolorful relative of the guppy belonging to the family Anablepidae (sister group to Poeciliidae, of which the guppy is a member). A PCR based survey indicated that J. onca had a very similar opsin repertoire to the guppy; J. onca had nine genes including orthologs of all but one of the guppy opsins. To gain further insight into the origin of the guppy repertoire, a bioinformatics based survey of ray-finned fish opsins was undertaken. This revealed that large opsin repertoires are common in ray-finned fish and are the product of gene duplication events, spanning the age of the taxon Teleostei. Given that the large opsin repertoire of the guppy did not appear to be perfectly correlated with the evolution of color based sexual selection in this lineage, I turned to investigating the expression of this opsin repertoire. In situ hybridization was used to characterize the pattern of opsin expression across the surface of the retina of adult male and female guppies. In situ hybridization demonstrated that most opsin genes had distinct expression profiles. These expression patterns also indicated that sensitivity and discrimination in the dorsal retina might differ from the ventral retina; the ventral retina appears to be tuned to middle-wavelength light (green), while the dorsal retina is predicted to have exceptional wavelength discriminatory ability and broad spectral sensitivity. This expression data was then used to evaluate models of sexual selection in the context of the predicted visual capacity of the guppy.

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Keywords

guppies, opsins, vision, In situ hybridization, sexual selection, gene duplication

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