Testosterone regulates CYP2J19-linked carotenoid signal expression in male red-backed fairywrens (Malurus melanocephalus): Testosterone and CYP2J19 expression

Sarah Khalil, Joseph F. Welklin, Kevin J. McGraw, Jordan Boersma, Hubert Schwabl, Michael S. Webster, Jordan Karubian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Carotenoid pigments produce most red, orange and yellow colours in vertebrates. This coloration can serve as an honest signal of quality that mediates social and mating interactions, but our understanding of the underlying mechanisms that control carotenoid signal production, including how different physiological pathways interact to shape and maintain these signals, remains incomplete. We investigated the role of testosterone in mediating gene expression associated with a red plumage sexual signal in red-backed fairywrens (Malurus melanocephalus). In this species, males within a single population can flexibly produce either red/black nuptial plumage or female-like brown plumage. Combining correlational analyses with a field-based testosterone implant experiment and quantitative polymerase chain reaction, we show that testosterone mediates expression of carotenoid-based plumage in part by regulating expression of CYP2J19, a ketolase gene associated with ketocarotenoid metabolism and pigmentation in birds. This is, to our knowledge, the first time that hormonal regulation of a specific genetic locus has been linked to carotenoid production in a natural context, revealing how endocrine mechanisms produce sexual signals that shape reproductive success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20201687
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume287
Issue number1935
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

Keywords

  • androgens
  • gene expression
  • ketocarotenoid
  • ornamental coloration
  • pigmentation

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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