Global gene expression analysis provides insight into local adaptation to geothermal streams in tadpoles of the Andean toad Rhinella spinulosa


The anuran Rhinella spinulosa is distributed along the Andes Range at altitudes that undergo wide daily and seasonal variation in temperature. One of the populations inhabits geothermal streams, a stable environment that influences life history traits such as the timing of metamorphosis. To investigate whether this population has undergone local adaptation to this unique habitat, we carried out transcriptome analyses in animals from two localities in two developmental stages (prometamorphic and metamorphic) and exposed them to two temperatures (20 and 25 °C). RNA-Seq, de novo assembly and annotation defined a transcriptome revealing 194,469 high quality SNPs, with 1,507 genes under positive selection. Comparisons among the experimental conditions yielded 1,593 differentially expressed genes. A bioinformatics search for candidates revealed a total of 70 genes that are highly likely to be implicated in the adaptive response of the population living in a stable environment, compared to those living in an environment with variable temperatures. Most importantly, the population inhabiting the geothermal environment showed decreased transcriptional plasticity and reduced genetic variation compared to its counterpart from the non-stable environment. This analysis will help to advance the understanding of the molecular mechanisms that account for the local adaptation to geothermal streams in anurans.

Scientific Reports