Data from: Carotenoid pigmentation in salmon: Variation in expression at BCO2-l locus controls a key fitness trait affecting red colouration
Lehnert, Sarah et al. (2019), Data from: Carotenoid pigmentation in salmon: Variation in expression at BCO2-l locus controls a key fitness trait affecting red colouration, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.mn91560
Carotenoids are primarily responsible for the characteristic red flesh colouration of salmon. Flesh colouration is an economically and evolutionarily significant trait that varies inter- and intra-specifically, yet the underlying genetic mechanism is unknown. Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) represent an ideal system to study carotenoid variation as, unlike other salmonids, they exhibit extreme differences in carotenoid utilization due to genetic polymorphisms. Here, we crossed populations of Chinook salmon with fixed differences in flesh colouration (red vs. white) for a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to identify loci associated with pigmentation. Here, the beta-carotene oxygenase 2-like (BCO2-l) gene was significantly associated with flesh colour, with the most significant SNP explaining 66% of the variation in colour. BCO2 gene disruption is linked to carotenoid accumulation in other taxa, therefore we hypothesize that an ancestral mutation partially disrupting BCO2-l activity (i.e., hypomorphic mutation) allowed the deposition and accumulation of carotenoids within Salmonidae. Indeed, we found elevated transcript levels of BCO2-l in white Chinook salmon relative to red. The long-standing mystery of why salmon are red, while no other fishes are, is thus likely explained by a hypomorphic mutation in the proto-salmonid at the time of divergence of red-fleshed salmonid genera (~30 MYA).
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