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Functional genomics of abiotic environmental adaptation in lacertid lizards and other vertebrates

Wollenberg Valero, Katharina C.; Garcia-Porta, Joan; Irisarri, Iker; Feugere, Lauric; Bates, Adam; Kirchhof, Sebastian; Jovanovic Glavas, Olga; Pafilis, Panayiotis; Samuel, Sabrina F.; Müller, Johannes; Vences, Miguel; Turner, Alexander P.; Beltran-Alvarez, Pedro; Storey, Kenneth B


Katharina C. Wollenberg Valero

Joan Garcia-Porta

Iker Irisarri

Lauric Feugere

Adam Bates

Sebastian Kirchhof

Olga Jovanovic Glavas

Panayiotis Pafilis

Sabrina F. Samuel

Johannes Müller

Miguel Vences

Alexander P. Turner

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Dr Pedro Beltran-Alvarez
Senior Lecturer in Health and Climate Change and Programme co-Director of the MSc Health and Climate Change

Kenneth B Storey


Understanding the genomic basis of adaptation to different abiotic environments is important in the context of climate change and resulting short-term environmental fluctuations. Using functional and comparative genomics approaches, we here investigated whether signatures of genomic adaptation to a set of environmental parameters are concentrated in specific subsets of genes and functions in lacertid lizards and other vertebrates. We first identify 200 genes with signatures of positive diversifying selection from transcriptomes of 24 species of lacertid lizards and demonstrate their involvement in physiological and morphological adaptations to climate. To understand how functionally similar these genes are to previously predicted candidate functions for climate adaptation and to compare them with other vertebrate species, we then performed a meta-analysis of 1,100 genes under selection obtained from -omics studies in vertebrate species adapted to different abiotic factors. We found that the vertebrate gene set formed a tightly connected interactome, which was to 23% enriched in previously predicted functions of adaptation to climate, and to a large part (18%) involved in organismal stress response. We found a much higher degree of identical genes being repeatedly selected among different animal groups (43.6%), and of functional similarity and post-translational modifications than expected by chance, and no clear functional division between genes used for ectotherm and endotherm physiological strategies. In total, 171 out of 200 genes of Lacertidae were part of this network. These results highlight an important role of a comparatively small set of genes and their functions in environmental adaptation and narrow the set of candidate pathways and markers to be used in future research on adaptation and stress response related to climate change.


Wollenberg Valero, K. C., Garcia-Porta, J., Irisarri, I., Feugere, L., Bates, A., Kirchhof, S., …Storey, K. B. (in press). Functional genomics of abiotic environmental adaptation in lacertid lizards and other vertebrates. The journal of animal ecology,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 27, 2021
Online Publication Date Oct 25, 2021
Deposit Date Oct 4, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Journal of Animal Ecology
Print ISSN 0021-8790
Electronic ISSN 1365-2656
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Environmental adaptation; Functional genomics; Comparative genomics; Constraint; Repeated positive diversifying selection
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