Candidate genes for carotenoid coloration in vertebrates and their expression profiles in the carotenoid-containing plumage and bill of a wild bird

N. Walsh, J. Dale, Kevin McGraw, M. A. Pointer, N. I. Mundy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Scopus citations

Abstract

Carotenoid-based coloration has attracted much attention in evolutionary biology owing to its role in honest, condition-dependent signalling. Knowledge of the genetic pathways that regulate carotenoid coloration is crucial for an understanding of any trade-offs involved. We identified genes with potential roles in carotenoid coloration in vertebrates via (i) carotenoid uptake (SR-BI, CD36), (ii) binding and deposition (StAR1, MLN64, StAR4, StAR5, APOD, PLIN, GSTA2), and (iii) breakdown (BCO2, BCMO1). We examined the expression of these candidate loci in carotenoid-coloured tissues and several control tissues of the red-billed quelea (Quelea quelea), a species that exhibits a male breeding plumage colour polymorphism and sexually dimorphic variation in bill colour. All of the candidate genes except StAR1 were expressed in both the plumage and bill of queleas, indicating a potential role in carotenoid coloration in the quelea. However, no differences in the relative expression of any of the genes were found among the quelea carotenoid phenotypes, suggesting that other genes control the polymorphic and sexually dimorphic variation in carotenoid coloration observed in this species. Our identification of a number of potential carotenoid genes in different functional categories provides a critical starting point for future work on carotenoid colour regulation in vertebrate taxa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-66
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume279
Issue number1726
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

Keywords

  • Candidate genes
  • Carotenoid coloration
  • Condition-dependent signalling
  • Evolutionary biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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