Previous studies of the 5S rDNA gene family carried out in four species from the Western Atlantic showed two types of this gene in two species but only one in the other two, under processes of concerted evolution and birth-and-death evolution with purifying selection. Here we present results of the 5S rDNA and another two gene families in Halobatrachus didactylus, an Eastern Atlantic species, and draw evolutionary inferences regarding the gene families. In addition we have also mapped the genes on the chromosomes by two-colour fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH).
Two types of 5S rDNA were observed, named type a and type ß. Molecular analysis of the 5S rDNA indicates that H. didactylus does not share the non-transcribed spacer (NTS) sequences with four other species of the family; therefore, it must have evolved in isolation.
Amplification with the type ß specific primers amplified a specific band in 9 specimens of H. didactylus and two of Sparus aurata. Both types showed regulatory regions and a secondary structure which mark them as functional genes. However, the U2 snRNA gene and the ITS-1 sequence showed one electrophoretic band and with one type of sequence.
The U2 snRNA sequence was the most variable of the three multigene families studied. Results from twocolour FISH showed no co-localization of the gene coding from three multigene families and provided the first map of the chromosomes of the species.
A highly significant finding was observed in the analysis of the 5S rDNA, since two such distant species as H. didactylus and Sparus aurata share a 5S rDNA type. This 5S rDNA type has been detected in other species belonging to the Batrachoidiformes and Perciformes orders, but not in the Pleuronectiformes and Clupeiformes orders.
Two hypotheses have been outlined: one is the possible vertical permanence of the shared type in some fish lineages, and the other is the possibility of a horizontal transference event between ancient species of the Perciformes and Batrachoidiformes orders.
This finding opens a new perspective in fish evolution and in the knowledge of the dynamism of the 5S rDNA. Cytogenetic analysis allowed some evolutionary trends to be roughed out, such as the progressive change in the U2 snDNA and the organization of (GATA)n repeats, from dispersed to localized in one locus.
The accumulation of (GATA)n repeats in one chromosome pair could be implicated in the evolution of a pair of proto-sex chromosomes. This possibility could situate H. didactylus as the most highly evolved of the Batrachoididae family in terms of sex chromosome biology.
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