Population genomics of parallel evolution in gene expression and gene sequence during ecological adaptation


Natural selection often produces parallel phenotypic changes in response to a similar adaptive challenge. However, the extent to which parallel gene expression differences and genomic divergence underlie parallel phenotypic traits and whether they are decoupled or not remains largely unexplored. We performed a population genomic study of parallel ecological adaptation among replicate ecotype pairs of the rough periwinkle (Littorina saxatilis) at a regional geographical scale (NW Spain). We show that genomic changes underlying parallel phenotypic divergence followed a complex pattern of both repeatable differences and of differences unique to specific ecotype pairs, in which parallel changes in expression or sequence are restricted to a limited set of genes. Yet, the majority of divergent genes were divergent either for gene expression or coding sequence, but not for both simultaneously. Overall, our findings suggest that divergent selection significantly contributed to the process of parallel molecular differentiation among ecotype pairs, and that changes in expression and gene sequence underlying phenotypic divergence could, at least to a certain extent, be considered decoupled processes.

Scientific Reports, 8:16147