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Testing multi-level controls on an aridity tolerance phenotype over time through physio-genomic data integration

Tolerance Phenotype Aridity


Titre : Testing multi-level controls on an aridity tolerance phenotype over time through physio-genomic data integration

Organismes NSF : IOS Division Of Integrative Organismal Systems

Durée : September 1, 2021 // August 31, 2024 (Estimated)

When faced with environmental challenges, animal populations have adjusted to better cope with local conditions, using mechanisms that range from permanent to highly dynamic. While changes to the inherited genetic material are permanent, dynamic adjustments include alterations in behavior, including the timing and duration of activity, the rate of gene expression off of DNA (i.e., RNA transcription) and non-permanent but stable and heritable alterations that affect gene expression (epigenetic modifications). These mechanisms operate on different timescales, and currently, we do not know the relative importance of these mechanisms in enabling animal populations to adjust to changing environmental conditions. DeNardo and colleagues will compare the ability of different populations of rattlesnakes to tolerate prolonged periods of limited water availability, examining three different population pairs that diverged at different times in the past. The team will examine differences in the genomic DNA, behavior, physiology, gene expression, and epigenetic modifications between populations pairs as well as seasonally among individuals in each population. The ability to integrate different types of information is critical for big data analysis which is a critical skill in science and industry, and the research group will develop undergraduate and graduate teaching modules for use in innovative courses. To extend this training out to K-12 learners, they are partnering with the Ask a Biologist program at Arizona State University to design and implement an online educational and interactive drought survival game that will enable gamers to explore the impact of genomic and behavioral strategies for rattlesnakes during extreme drought conditions.

Adaptive phenotypes are ubiquitous in nature, but such phenotypes can come about in different ways, including deterministic mechanisms such as coding and regulatory genomic changes, as well as plastic responses such as epigenomic, transcriptomic, and behavioral modifications. These mechanisms not only operate on different timescales, but their relative importance and how they interplay to produce adaptive phenotypes is largely unknown. Understanding these relationships and how they vary based on divergence time of the phenotype is critical to understanding how organisms respond to novel environmental conditions and therefore accurately predict their ability to tolerate the impacts of rapidly changing environmental conditions. Here, DeNardo et al. will integrate whole-genome, epigenome, and transcriptome sequencing with behavioral and physiological data to quantify their direct and indirect contributions to tolerance of prolonged water limitation in three rattlesnake lineages of differing divergence times. Integrative statistical analysis using structural equation modeling will enable them to compare the relative controls across the different lineages, among populations within lineages, and within individuals across seasons and hydric states. To improve teaching integrative statistics at different educational levels, the PIs will develop modules that progressively use these datasets in undergraduate and graduate online and in-person courses. In coordination with Ask a Biologist, they will also coordinate the design, implementation, and assessment of an online education and interactive drought survival game that, at differing complexity levels, will require the gamer to assign genomic and behavioral strategies to rattlesnakes as they enter a time of drought.

Bureau de recherche parrainé  : Arizona State University

Financement : $869,404.00

National Science Foundation

Page publiée le 26 novembre 2021