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Publication - Professor Martin Genner

    Behavior-dependent cis regulation reveals genes and pathways associated with bower building in cichlid fishes


    York, R, Patil, C, Abdilleh, K, Johnson, Z, Conte, M, Genner, MJ, McGrath, P, Fraser, H, Fernald, R & Streelman, JT, 2018, ‘Behavior-dependent cis regulation reveals genes and pathways associated with bower building in cichlid fishes’. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol 115., pp. E11081-E11090


    Many behaviors are associated with heritable genetic variation [Kendler and Greenspan (2006) Am J Psychiatry
    163:1683–1694]. Genetic mapping has revealed genomic regions or, in a
    few cases, specific genes explaining part of this variation [Bendesky
    and Bargmann (2011) Nat Rev Gen 12:809–820]. However, the
    genetic basis of behavioral evolution remains unclear. Here we
    investigate the evolution of an innate extended phenotype, bower
    building, among cichlid fishes of Lake Malawi. Males build bowers of two
    types, pits or castles, to attract females for mating. We performed
    comparative genome-wide analyses of 20 bower-building species and found
    that these phenotypes have evolved multiple times with thousands of
    genetic variants strongly associated with this behavior, suggesting a
    polygenic architecture. Remarkably, F1 hybrids of a
    pit-digging and a castle-building species perform sequential
    construction of first a pit and then a castle bower. Analysis of brain
    gene expression in these hybrids showed that genes near
    behavior-associated variants display behavior-dependent allele-specific
    expression with preferential expression of the pit-digging species
    allele during pit digging and of the castle-building species allele
    during castle building. These genes are highly enriched for functions
    related to neurodevelopment and neural plasticity. Our results suggest
    that natural behaviors are associated with complex genetic architectures
    that alter behavior via cis-regulatory differences whose effects on gene expression are specific to the behavior itself.

    Full details in the University publications repository