Genetically encoded lizard color divergence for camouflage and thermoregulation

Sun, B.J., Li, W.M., Lv, P., Wen, G.N., Wu, D.Y., Tao, S.A., Liao, M.L., Yu, C.Q., Jiang, Z.W., Wang, Y., Xie, H.X., Wang, X.F., Chen, Z.Q., Liu, F., Du, W.G.
Molecular Biology and Evolution   41(2): (Journal)
Registered Authors
Liu, Feng
Camouflage, Color polymorphism, Ecological adaptation, Melanin, Reptile, Thermal melanism hypothesis
MeSH Terms
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation/genetics
  • Color
  • Lizards*/genetics
  • Melanins*/genetics
  • Skin Pigmentation/genetics
  • Zebrafish
38243850 Full text @ Mol Bio Evol
Local adaptation is critical in speciation and evolution, yet comprehensive studies on proximate and ultimate causes of local adaptation are generally scarce. Here, we integrated field ecological experiments, genome sequencing, and genetic verification to demonstrate both driving forces and molecular mechanisms governing local adaptation of body coloration in a lizard from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. We found dark lizards from the cold meadow population had lower spectrum reflectance but higher melanin contents than light counterparts from the warm dune population. Additionally, the colorations of both dark and light lizards facilitated the camouflage and thermoregulation in their respective microhabitat simultaneously. More importantly, by genome resequencing analysis, we detected a novel mutation in Tyrp1 that underpinned this color adaptation. The allele frequencies at the site of SNP 459# in the gene of Tyrp1 are 22.22% G/C and 77.78% C/C in dark lizards and 100% G/G in light lizards. Model-predicted structure and catalytic activity showed that this mutation increased structure flexibility and catalytic activity in enzyme TYRP1, and thereby facilitated the generation of eumelanin in dark lizards. The function of the mutation in Tyrp1 was further verified by more melanin contents and darker coloration detected in the zebrafish injected with the genotype of Tyrp1 from dark lizards. Therefore, our study demonstrates that a novel mutation of a major melanin-generating gene underpins skin color variation co-selected by camouflage and thermoregulation in a lizard. The resulting strong selection may reinforce adaptive genetic divergence and enable the persistence of adjacent populations with distinct body coloration.
Genes / Markers
Show all Figures
Mutations / Transgenics
Human Disease / Model
Sequence Targeting Reagents
Engineered Foreign Genes