Abstracts (first author)
Transcriptomics reveals patterning and pigmentation genes shaping the Heliconius melpomene wing colour variation
The wing colour patterns of the Heliconius butterflies are an excellent system to study the evolution of adaptive phenotypes in nature. Previous work has made important progress on the identification of both patterning and pigmentation candidate genes controlling wing colour phenotypes on these butterflies, however, a deep understanding of the genetic and developmental networks shaping Heliconius wing variation is still missing. Here, we have applied a transcriptomics approach (RNA-seq and expression arrays) on developing wings of two morphological and phenotypically different races of the butterfly Heliconius melpomene, in order to make a comprehensive identification of such genes. Across the genome, over 300 transcripts associated with colour pattern phenotype were identified, from which several associated to structural and pigmentation genes. Additionally, the tiling of three major colour loci, namely HmAc, HmBD and HmYb, pinpointed four genes within those genomic regions whose expression differed between phenotypic races, being therefore in association to wing colouration and likely play patterning roles controlling phenotypic “colour switches”. The information here derived constitutes a step forward in the understanding of the genes and pathways controlling colour pattern evolution in Heliconius.