Does inbreeding affect gene expression in birds?

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Abstract

Inbreeding increases homozygosity, exposes genome-wide recessive deleterious alleles and often reduces fitness. The physiological and reproductive consequences of inbreeding may be manifested already during gene regulation, but the degree to which inbreeding influences gene expression is unknown in most organisms, including in birds. To evaluate the pattern of inbreeding-affected gene expression over the genome and in relation to sex, we performed a transcriptome-wide gene expression (10 695 genes) study of brain tissue of 10-day-old inbred and outbred, male and female zebra finches. We found significantly lower gene expression in females compared with males at Z-linked genes, confirming that dosage compensation is incomplete in female birds. However, inbreeding did not affect gene expression at autosomal or sex-linked genes, neither in males nor in females. Analyses of single genes again found a clear sex-biased expression at Z-linked genes, whereas only a single gene was significantly affected by inbreeding. The weak effect of inbreeding on gene expression in zebra finches contrasts to the situation, for example, in Drosophila where inbreeding has been found to influence gene expression more generally and at stress-related genes in particular.

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  • Biological Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Article number20140648
JournalBiology letters
Volume10
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes