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Paper Chase

Genetic analysis of cavefish reveals molecular convergence in the evolution of albinism.

Nat. Genet.. 12 11, 2005;38(1):107-11.
Protas ME, Hersey C, Kochanek D, Zhou Y, Wilkens H, Jeffery WR, Zon LI, Borowsky R, Tabin CJ.

Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.

Abstract:

The genetic basis of vertebrate morphological evolution has traditionally been very difficult to examine in naturally occurring populations. Here we describe the generation of a genome-wide linkage map to allow quantitative trait analysis of evolutionarily derived morphologies in the Mexican cave tetra, a species that has, in a series of independent caves, repeatedly evolved specialized characteristics adapted to a unique and well-studied ecological environment. We focused on the trait of albinism and discovered that it is linked to Oca2, a known pigmentation gene, in two cave populations. We found different deletions in Oca2 in each population and, using a cell-based assay, showed that both cause loss of function of the corresponding protein, OCA2. Thus, the two cave populations evolved albinism independently, through similar mutational events.