Transcriptomics unravels molecular players shaping dorsal lip hypertrophy in the vacuum cleaner cichlid, Gnathochromis permaxillaris
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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OriginalversjonBMC Genomics. 2021, 22, . 10.1186/s12864-021-07775-z
Background Teleosts display a spectacular diversity of craniofacial adaptations that often mediates ecological specializations. A considerable amount of research has revealed molecular players underlying skeletal craniofacial morphologies, but less is known about soft craniofacial phenotypes. Here we focus on an example of lip hypertrophy in the benthivorous Lake Tangnayika cichlid, Gnathochromis permaxillaris, considered to be a morphological adaptation to extract invertebrates out of the uppermost layer of mud bottom. We investigate the molecular and regulatory basis of lip hypertrophy in G. permaxillaris using a comparative transcriptomic approach. Results We identified a gene regulatory network involved in tissue overgrowth and cellular hypertrophy, potentially associated with the formation of a locally restricted hypertrophic lip in a teleost fish species. Of particular interest were the increased expression level of apoda and fhl2, as well as reduced expression of cyp1a, gimap8, lama5 and rasal3, in the hypertrophic lip region which have been implicated in lip formation in other vertebrates. Among the predicted upstream transcription factors, we found reduced expression of foxp1 in the hypertrophic lip region, which is known to act as repressor of cell growth and proliferation, and its function has been associated with hypertrophy of upper lip in human. Conclusion Our results provide a genetic foundation for future studies of molecular players shaping soft and exaggerated, but locally restricted, craniofacial morphological changes in fish and perhaps across vertebrates. In the future, we advocate integrating gene regulatory networks of various craniofacial phenotypes to understand how they collectively govern trophic and behavioural adaptations.