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Evidence for multifactorial processes underlying phenotypic variation in bat visual opsins

By Alexa Sadier, Kalina T. J. Davies, Laurel R. Yohe, Kun Yun, Paul Donat, Brandon P. Hedrick, Elizabeth R. Dumont, Liliana M. Dávalos, Stephen J. Rossiter, Karen E. Sears

Posted 12 Apr 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/300301

Studies of opsin genes offer insights into the evolutionary history and molecular basis of vertebrate color vision, but most assume intact open reading frames equate to functional phenotypes. Despite known variation in opsin repertoires and associated visual phenotypes, the genetic basis of such patterns has not been examined at each step of the central dogma. By comparing sequences, gene expression, and protein localization across a hyperdiverse group of mammals, noctilionoid bats, we find evidence that independent losses of S-opsin arose through disruptions at different stages of protein synthesis, while maintenance relates to frugivory. Discordance between DNA, RNA, and protein reveals that the loss of short-wave sensitivity in some lineages resulted from transcriptional and post-transcriptional changes in addition to degradation of open reading frames. These mismatches imply that visual phenotypes cannot reliably be predicted from genotypes alone, and connect ecology to multiple mechanisms behind the loss of color in vertebrates.

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