In the face of worldwide environmental damage, we need to determine the sources of phenotypic variation in natural populations to better estimate the ecological and evolutionary response of organisms to environmental threats. Here I propose to explore the molecular architecture underlying a fitness-related trait that is sensitive to environmental conditions in a wild frog. Amphibians are particularly responsive to environmental fluctuations and are undergoing worldwide decline as a result of climate change. Traits related to fitness, such as locomotor performance and the underlying muscle architecture, physiology and gene expression, are influenced by temperature in this taxa. I will identify the molecular mechanisms underlying muscle plasticity and adaptation to temperature in Xenopus tropicalis, an aquatic frog which serves as a model system in developmental biology and genetics. Specifically, I will selectively breed frogs over several generations under different thermal regimes. Some individuals will also be exposed to an additional stress (hypoxia) to evaluate the effects of tradeoffs and traits correlations on responses to selection. I will monitor the genetic changes in coding and cis-regulatory sequences of candidate loci, as well as epigenetic processes (DNA methylation and miRNA production) affecting the expression patterns of those genes. Additionally, I will perform whole-genome analyses (oligoarrays and sequencing-by-synthesis approaches) combined with quantitative genetic approaches (QTL analyses) to identify novel genes, gene pathways and epigenetic processes underlying the response to selection. Finally, in conjunction with collaborators, we will examine the biochemical, physiological and morphological (musculoskeletal) alterations associated with the response. Such a highly integrative and multidisciplinary project is crucial to understand the intricacies of molecular and phenotypic responses of natural populations to environmental perturbations.
Field of science
- /natural sciences/biological sciences/developmental biology
- /natural sciences/biological sciences/genetics and heredity/epigenetics
- /natural sciences/earth and related environmental sciences/atmospheric sciences/climatology/climatic changes
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