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Data from: Molecular evolution of the neural crest regulatory network in ray-finned fish

Cite this dataset

Kratochwil, Claudius F.; Geissler, Laura; Irisarri, Iker; Meyer, Axel (2015). Data from: Molecular evolution of the neural crest regulatory network in ray-finned fish [Dataset]. Dryad.


Gene regulatory networks (GRN) are central to developmental processes. They are composed of transcription factors and signaling molecules orchestrating gene expression modules that tightly regulate the development of organisms. The neural crest (NC) is a multipotent cell population that is considered a key innovation of vertebrates. Its derivatives contribute to shaping the astounding morphological diversity of jaws, teeth, head skeleton or pigmentation. Here, we study the molecular evolution of the NC GRN by analyzing patterns of molecular divergence for a total of 36 genes in 16 species of bony fishes. Analyses of non-synonymous to synonymous substitution rate ratios (dN/dS) support patterns of variable selective pressures among genes deployed at different stages of NC development, consistent with the developmental hourglass model. Model-based clustering techniques of sequence features support the notion of extreme conservation of NC-genes across the entire network. Our data show that most genes are under strong purifying selection that is maintained throughout ray-finned fish evolution. Late NC development genes reveal a pattern of increased constraints in more recent lineages. Additionally, seven of the NC-genes showed signs of relaxation of purifying selection in the famously species-rich lineage of cichlid fishes. This suggests that NC genes might have played a role in the adaptive radiation of cichlids by granting flexibility in the development of NC-derived traits – suggesting an important role for NC network architecture during the diversification in vertebrates.

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