DOI: 10.1101/463174Nov 5, 2018Paper

Drift and directional selection are the evolutionary forces driving gene expression divergence in eye and brain tissue of Heliconius butterflies

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Ana CatalánAdriana D Briscoe


Investigating gene expression evolution over micro- and macroevolutionary timescales will expand our understanding of the role of gene expression in adaptation and speciation. In this study, we characterized which evolutionary forces are acting on gene expression levels in eye and brain tissue of five Heliconius butterflies with divergence times of ~5-12 MYA. We developed and applied Brownian motion and Ornstein-Uhlenbeck models to identify genes whose expression levels are evolving through drift, stabilizing selection, or a lineage-specific shift. We find that 81% of the genes evolve under genetic drift. When testing for branch-specific shifts in gene expression, we detected 368 (16%) shift events. Genes showing a shift towards up-regulation have significantly lower gene expression variance than those genes showing a shift leading towards down-regulation. We hypothesize that directional selection is acting in shifts causing up-regulation, since transcription is costly. We further uncover through simulations that parameter estimation of Ornstein-Uhlenbeck models is biased when using small phylogenies and only becomes reliable with phylogenies having at least 50 taxa. Therefore, we developed a new statistical test based on Brown...Continue Reading

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