Phenotypic plasticity of the Drosophila transcriptome.

by Shanshan Zhou, Terry G Campbell, Eric a Stone, Trudy F C Mackay, Robert R H Anholt
PLoS genetics ()


Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of a single genotype to produce different phenotypes in response to changing environments. We assessed variation in genome-wide gene expression and four fitness-related phenotypes of an outbred Drosophila melanogaster population under 20 different physiological, social, nutritional, chemical, and physical environments; and we compared the phenotypically plastic transcripts to genetically variable transcripts in a single environment. The environmentally sensitive transcriptome consists of two transcript categories, which comprise ∼15% of expressed transcripts. Class I transcripts are genetically variable and associated with detoxification, metabolism, proteolysis, heat shock proteins, and transcriptional regulation. Class II transcripts have low genetic variance and show sexually dimorphic expression enriched for reproductive functions. Clustering analysis of Class I transcripts reveals a fragmented modular organization and distinct environmentally responsive transcriptional signatures for the four fitness-related traits. Our analysis suggests that a restricted environmentally responsive segment of the transcriptome preserves the balance between phenotypic plasticity and environmental canalization.

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