Adaptive Molecular Evolution in the Opsin Genes of Rapidly Speciating Cichlid Species

Spady, Tyrone C.; Seehausen, Ole; Lowe, Ellis R.; Jordan, Rebecca C.; Kocher, Thomas D.; Carleton, Karen L. (2005). Adaptive Molecular Evolution in the Opsin Genes of Rapidly Speciating Cichlid Species. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 22(6), pp. 1412-1422. Oxford University Press 10.1093/molbev/msi137

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Cichlid fish inhabit a diverse range of environments that vary in the spectral content of light available for vision. These differences should result in adaptive selective pressure on the genes involved in visual sensitivity, the opsin genes. This study examines the evidence for differential adaptive molecular evolution in East African cichlid opsin genes due to gross differences in environmental light conditions. First, we characterize the selective regime experienced by cichlid opsin genes using a likelihood ratio test format, comparing likelihood models with different constraints on the relative rates of amino acid substitution, across sites. Second, we compare turbid and clear lineages to determine if there is evidence of differences in relative rates of substitution. Third, we present evidence of functional diversification and its relationship to the photic environment among cichlid opsin genes. We report statistical evidence of positive selection in all cichlid opsin genes, except short wavelength–sensitive 1 and short wavelength–sensitive 2b. In all genes predicted to be under positive selection, except short wavelength–sensitive 2a, we find differences in selective pressure between turbid and clear lineages. Potential spectral tuning sites are variable among all cichlid opsin genes; however, patterns of substitution consistent with photic environment–driven evolution of opsin genes are observed only for short wavelength–sensitive 1 opsin genes. This study identifies a number of promising candidate-tuning sites for future study by site-directed mutagenesis. This work also begins to demonstrate the molecular evolutionary dynamics of cichlid visual sensitivity and its relationship to the photic environment.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Aquatic Ecology

UniBE Contributor:

Seehausen, Ole


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology




Oxford University Press




Marcel Häsler

Date Deposited:

05 Sep 2014 13:35

Last Modified:

04 Sep 2015 08:20

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

positive Darwinian selection, cichlid, opsin, photic environment




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