Regulatory changes in pterin and carotenoid genes underlie balanced color polymorphisms in the wall lizard

Pedro Andrade, Catarina Pinho, Guillem Pérez i. de Lanuza, Sandra Afonso, Jindrich Brejcha, Carl Johan Rubin, Ola Wallerman, Paulo Pereira, Stephen J. Sabatino, Adriana Bellati, Daniele Pellitteri-Rosa, Zuzana Bosakova, Ignas Bunikis, Miguel A. Carretero, Nathalie Feiner, Petr Marsik, Francisco Paupério, Daniele Salvi, Lucile Soler, Geoffrey M. WhileTobias Uller, Enrique Font, Leif Andersson, Miguel Carneiro

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Reptiles use pterin and carotenoid pigments to produce yellow, orange, and red colors. These conspicuous colors serve a diversity of signaling functions, but their molecular basis remains unresolved. Here, we show that the genomes of sympatric color morphs of the European common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis), which differ in orange and yellow pigmentation and in their ecology and behavior, are virtually undifferentiated. Genetic differences are restricted to two small regulatory regions near genes associated with pterin [sepiapterin reductase (SPR)] and carotenoid [beta-carotene oxygenase 2 (BCO2)] metabolism, demonstrating that a core gene in the housekeeping pathway of pterin biosynthesis has been coopted for bright coloration in reptiles and indicating that these loci exert pleiotropic effects on other aspects of physiology. Pigmentation differences are explained by extremely divergent alleles, and haplotype analysis revealed abundant transspecific allele sharing with other lacertids exhibiting color polymorphisms. The evolution of these conspicuous color ornaments is the result of ancient genetic variation and cross-species hybridization.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)5633-5642
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Subject classification (UKÄ)

    • Evolutionary Biology

    Free keywords

    • Balanced polymorphism
    • Carotenoid pigmentation
    • Introgression
    • Podarcis muralis
    • Pterin pigmentation


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