Maternal and Paternal Growth Regulatory Factor Expression in Hybrid Sunfish
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Unidirectional hybridization between bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) and pumpkinseed (L. gibbosus) sunfish enables researchers to explore the relative expression of paternal and maternal alleles in hybrids. Past studies have found that the metabolic dysfunction in bluegill-pumpkinseed hybrids may be due to incompatibilities between nuclear and mitochondrial genomes. However, the consequences of hybridization on body size and muscle growth have not been examined. This topic is particularly interesting because hybrids grow larger than parentals despite the fact that they are often sired by smaller, precociously mature bluegills. In order to improve our understanding of growth dynamics in hybrid sunfish, I conducted real-time quantitative PCR using species-specific primers on the white muscle tissue of bluegills, pumpkinseeds, and hybrids collected from Lake Opinicon, ON. Five growth factors that have been linked to muscle growth and body size demonstrated similar expression for maternal and paternal alleles. While about half of the hybrids showed the same pattern with myogenin, about half showed very low levels of mRNA for the paternal (bluegill) gene. While this did not explain the heterosis seen in hybrids, it may explain the small body phenotype of the cuckholding bluegill males. I explored the upstream genetic structure of bluegill myogenin and established that four alleles exist within the population. Furthermore, I uncovered a relationship in hybrids between the proximal promoter/ 5’ UTR of myogenin and its transcript level. I found that the hybrids demonstrating low paternal myogenin expression unfailingly possessed A3 or A4 alleles, but future studies will be needed to reveal the molecular links between the genotype and the growth phenotype. A similar genotype-phenotype association was not obvious in parentals, even those that were homozygous for these alleles. Whether this relationship can provide insight into the genetic determinants of bluegill alternative mating strategies has yet to be determined.