Brain transcriptomics of wild and domestic rabbits suggests that changes in dopamine signaling and ciliary function contributed to evolution of tameness

Daiki X. Sato, Nima Rafati, Henrik Ring, Shady Younis, Chungang Feng, Jose A. Blanco-Aguiar, Carl Johan Rubin, Rafael Villafuerte, Finn Hallböök, Miguel Carneiro, Leif Andersson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Domestication has resulted in immense phenotypic changes in animals despite their relatively short evolutionary history. The European rabbit is one of the most recently domesticated animals, but exhibits distinct morphological, physiological, and behavioral differences from their wild conspecifics. A previous study revealed that sequence variants with striking allele frequency differences between wild and domestic rabbits were enriched in conserved noncoding regions, in the vicinity of genes involved in nervous system development. This suggests that a large proportion of the genetic changes targeted by selection during domestication might affect gene regulation. Here, we generated RNA-sequencing data for four brain regions (amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampus, and parietal/temporal cortex) sampled at birth and revealed hundreds of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between wild and domestic rabbits. DEGs in amygdala were significantly enriched for genes associated with dopaminergic function and all 12 DEGs in this category showed higher expression in domestic rabbits. DEGs in hippocampus were enriched for genes associated with ciliary function, all 21 genes in this category showed lower expression in domestic rabbits. These results indicate an important role of dopamine signaling and ciliary function in the evolution of tameness during rabbit domestication. Our study shows that gene expression in specific pathways has been profoundly altered during domestication, but that the majority of genes showing differential expression in this study have not been the direct targets of selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1918-1928
Number of pages11
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Volume12
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics

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