Canalization of Phenotypes—When the Transcriptome is Constantly but Weakly Perturbed
by Guang-An Lu | Chung-I Wu | Sun Yat-sen University | Sun Yat-sen University; The University of Chicago
Abstract ID: 181
Event: The 3rd AsiaEvo Conference
Topic: Open category
Presenter Name: Guang-An Lu

Recent studies have increasingly pointed to microRNAs (miRNAs) as the agent of gene regulatory network (GRN) stabilization as well as developmental canalization against constant but small environmental perturbations. To analyze mild perturbations, we construct a Dicer-1 knockdown line (dcr-1 KD) in Drosophila that modestly reduces all miRNAs by, on average, ∼20%. The defining characteristic of stabilizers is that, when their capacity is compromised, GRNs do not change their short-term behaviors. Indeed, even with such broad reductions across all miRNAs, the changes in the transcriptome are very modest during development in stable environment. By comparison, broad knockdowns of other regulatory genes (esp. transcription factors) by the same method should lead to drastic changes in the GRNs. The consequence of destabilization may thus be in long-term development as postulated by the theory of canalization. Flies with modest miRNA reductions may gradually deviate from the developmental norm, resulting in late-stage failures such as shortened longevity. In the optimal culture condition, the survival to adulthood is indeed normal in the dcr-1 KD line but, importantly, adult longevity is reduced by ∼90%. When flies are stressed by high temperature, dcr-1 KD induces lethality earlier in late pupation and, as the perturbations are shifted earlier, the affected stages are shifted correspondingly. Hence, in late stages of development with deviations piling up, GRN would be increasingly in need of stabilization. In conclusion, miRNAs appear to be a solution to weak but constant environmental perturbations.