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Phenotypic variation in mitochondrial function across New Zealand snail populations

By Emma S Greimann, Samuel F. Ward, James D Woodell, Samantha Hennessey, Michael R Kline, Jorge A Moreno, Madeline Peters, Jennifer L Cruise, Kristi L Montooth, Maurine Neiman, Joel Sharbrough

Posted 09 Dec 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/230979

Mitochondrial function is critical for energy homeostasis and should shape how genetic variation in metabolism is transmitted through levels of biological organization to generate stability in organismal performance. Mitochondrial function is encoded by genes in two distinct and separately inherited genomes – the mitochondrial genome and the nuclear genome – and selection is expected to maintain functional mito-nuclear interactions. Nevertheless, high levels of polymorphism in genes involved in these mito-nuclear interactions and variation for mitochondrial function are nevertheless frequently observed, demanding an explanation for how and why variability in such a fundamental trait is maintained. Potamopyrgus antipodarum is a New Zealand freshwater snail with coexisting sexual and asexual individuals and, accordingly, contrasting systems of separate vs. co-inheritance of nuclear and mitochondrial genomes. As such, this snail provides a powerful means to dissect the evolutionary and functional consequences of mito-nuclear variation. The lakes inhabited by P. antipodarum span wide environmental gradients, with substantial across-lake genetic structure and mito-nuclear discordance. This situation allows us to use comparisons across reproductive modes and lakes to partition variation in cellular respiration across genetic and environmental axes. Here, we integrated cellular, physiological, and behavioral approaches to quantify variation in mitochondrial function across a diverse set of wild P. antipodarum lineages. We found extensive across-lake variation in organismal oxygen consumption, mitochondrial membrane potential, and behavioral response to heat stress, but few global effects of reproductive mode or sex. Taken together, our data set the stage for applying this important model system for sexual reproduction and polyploidy to dissecting the complex relationships between mito-nuclear variation, performance, plasticity, and fitness in natural populations.

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