Genome sequencing and transcriptomic analysis of the Andean killifish Orestias ascotanensis reveals adaptation to high-altitude aquatic life


Orestias ascotanensis (Cyprinodontidae) is a teleost pupfish endemic to springs feeding into the Ascotan saltpan in the Chilean Altiplano (3,700 m.a.s.l.) and represents an opportunity to study adaptations to high-altitude aquatic environments. We have de novo assembled the genome of O. ascotanensis at high coverage. Comparative analysis of the O. ascotanensis genome showed an overall process of contraction, including loss of genes related to G-protein signaling, chemotaxis and signal transduction, while there was expansion of gene families associated with microtubule-based movement and protein ubiquitination. We identified 818 genes under positive selection, many of which are involved in DNA repair. Additionally, we identified novel and conserved microRNAs expressed in O. ascotanensis and its closely-related species, Orestias gloriae. Our analysis suggests that positive selection and expansion of genes that preserve genome stability are a potential adaptive mechanism to cope with the increased solar UV radiation to which high-altitude animals are exposed to.