© 2015. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. The killifish Fundulus heteroclitus is an estuarine species with broad physiological plasticity, enabling acclimation to diverse stressors. Previous work suggests that freshwater populations expanded their physiology to accommodate low salinity environments; however, it is unknown whether this compromises their tolerance to high salinity.We used a comparative approach to investigate the mechanisms of a derived freshwater phenotype and the fate of an ancestral euryhaline phenotype after invasion of a freshwater environment. We compared physiological and transcriptomic responses to high-and low-salinity stress in fresh and brackish water populations and found an enhanced plasticity to low salinity in the freshwater population coupled with a reduced ability to acclimate to high salinity. Transcriptomic data identified genes with a conserved common response, a conserved salinity-dependent response and responses associated with population divergence. Conserved common acclimation responses revealed stress responses and alterations in cell-cycle regulation as important mechanisms in the general osmotic response. Salinityspecific responses included the regulation of genes involved in ion transport, intracellular calcium, energetic processes and cellular remodeling. Genes diverged between populations were primarily those showing salinity-specific expression and included those regulating polyamine homeostasis and the cell cycle. Additionally, when populations were matched with their native salinity, expression patterns were consistent with the concept of 'transcriptomic resilience', suggesting local adaptation. These findings provide insight into the fate of a plastic phenotype after a shift in environmental salinity and help to reveal mechanisms allowing for euryhalinity.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Journal of Experimental Biology
Brennan, R., Galvez, F., & Whitehead, A. (2015). Reciprocal osmotic challenges reveal mechanisms of divergence in phenotypic plasticity in the killifish Fundulus heteroclitus. Journal of Experimental Biology, 218 (8), 1212-1222. https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.110445