Metabolites are active controllers of cellular physiology, but their role in complex behaviors is less clear. Here we report metabolic changes that occur during the transition between hunger and satiety in Drosophila melanogaster . To analyze these data in the context of fruit fly metabolic networks, we developed Flyscape, an open-access tool. We show that in response to eating, metabolic profiles change in quick, but distinct ways in the heads and bodies. Consumption of a high sugar diet dulls the metabolic and behavioral differences between the fasted and fed state, and reshapes the way nutrients are utilized upon eating. Specifically, we found that high dietary sugar increases TCA cycle activity, alters neurochemicals, and depletes 1-carbon metabolism and brain health metabolites N-acetyl-aspartate and kynurenine. Together, our work identifies the metabolic transitions that occur during hunger and satiation, and provides a platform to study the role of metabolites and diet in complex behavior.
Reduced parasite infection rates in the developed world are suspected to underlie the rising prevalence of autoimmune disorders. However, the long-term evolutionary consequences of decreased parasite exposure on an immune system are not well understood. We used the Mexican tetra Astyanax mexicanus to understand how loss of parasite diversity influences the evolutionary trajectory of the vertebrate immune system by comparing river with cave morphotypes. Here, we present field data that affirms a strong reduction in parasite diversity in the cave ecosystem and show that cavefish immune cells display a more sensitive proinflammatory response towards bacterial endotoxins. Surprisingly, other innate cellular immune responses, such as phagocytosis, are drastically decreased in cavefish. Using two independent single-cell approaches, we identified a shift in the overall immune cell composition in cavefish as the underlying cellular mechanism, indicating strong differences in the immune investment strategy. While surface fish invest evenly into the innate and adaptive immune system, cavefish shifted immune investment to the adaptive immune system, and here, mainly towards specific T-cell populations that promote homeostasis. Additionally, inflammatory responses and immunopathological phenotypes in visceral adipose tissue are drastically reduced in cavefish.Our data indicate that long term adaptation to low parasite diversity coincides with a more sensitive immune system in cavefish, which is accompanied by a reduction of the immune cells that play a role in mediating the proinflammatory response.
Studying how different genotypes respond to environmental variation is essential to understand the genetic basis of adaptation. The Mexican tetra, Astyanax mexicanus, has cave and surface-dwelling morphotypes that have adapted to entirely different environments in the wild, and are now successfully maintained in lab conditions. While this has enabled the identification of genetic adaptations underlying a variety of physiological processes, few studies have directly compared morphotypes between labreared and natural populations. Such comparative approaches could help dissect the varying effects of environment and morphotype, and determine the extent to which phenomena observed in the lab are generalizable to conditions in the field. To this end, we take a transcriptomic approach to compare the Pachón cavefish and their surface fish counterparts in their natural habitats and the lab environment. We identify key changes in expression of genes implicated in metabolism and physiology between groups of fish, suggesting that morphotype (surface or cave) and environment (natural or lab) both alter gene expression. We find gene expression differences between cave and surface fish in their natural habitats are much larger than differences in expression between morphotypes in the lab environment. However, lab-raised cave and surface fish still exhibit numerous gene expression changes, supporting genetically encoded changes in livers of this species. From this, we conclude that a controlled laboratory environment may serve as an ideal setting to study the genetic underpinnings of metabolic and physiological differences between the cavefish and surface fish.
Circadian rhythms are nearly ubiquitous throughout nature, suggesting they are critical for survival in diverse environments. Organisms inhabiting largely arrhythmic environments, such as caves, offer a unique opportunity to study the evolution of circadian rhythms in response to changing ecological pressures. Populations of the Mexican tetra, Astyanax mexicanus, have repeatedly invaded caves from surface rivers, where individuals must contend with perpetual darkness, reduced food availability, and limited fluctuations in daily environmental cues. To investigate the molecular basis for evolved changes in circadian rhythms, we investigated rhythmic transcription across multiple independently-evolved cavefish populations. Our findings reveal that evolution in a cave environment has led to the repeated disruption of the endogenous biological clock, and its entrainment by light. The circadian transcriptome shows widespread reductions and losses of rhythmic transcription and changes to the timing of the activation/repression of core-transcriptional clock. In addition to dysregulation of the core clock, we find that rhythmic transcription of the melatonin regulator aanat2 and melatonin rhythms are disrupted in cavefish under darkness. Mutants of aanat2 and core clock gene rorca disrupt diurnal regulation of sleep in A. mexicanus, phenocopying circadian modulation of sleep and activity phenotypes of cave populations. Together, these findings reveal multiple independent mechanisms for loss of circadian rhythms in cavefish populations and provide a platform for studying how evolved changes in the biological clock can contribute to variation in sleep and circadian behavior.
16Circadian rhythms are nearly ubiquitous throughout nature, suggesting they are critical for 17 survival in diverse environments. Organisms inhabiting environments with arrhythmic days, such 18 as caves, offer a unique opportunity to study the evolution of circadian rhythms in response to 19 changing ecological pressures. Here we demonstrate that the cave environment has led to the 20 repeated disruption of the biological clock across multiple populations of Mexican cavefish, with 21 the circadian transcriptome showing widespread reductions in rhythmicity and changes to the 22 timing of the activation/repression of genes in the core pacemaker. Then, we investigate the 23 function of two genes with decreased rhythmic expression in cavefish. Mutants of these genes 24 phenocopy reductions in sleep seen in multiple cave populations, suggesting a link between 25 circadian dysregulation and sleep reduction. Altogether, our results reveal that evolution in an 26 arrhythmic environment has resulted in dysregulation to the biological clock across multiple 27 populations by diverse molecular mechanisms. 28 29 30 degenerate eyes 19-21 , reduced pigmentation 22-25 , and changes in metabolism and behavior 26-35 . 53 Circadian rhythms and sleep behavior are also substantially altered in cavefish 27,36-38 . While 54 cavefish largely maintain locomotor and physiological rhythms in light-dark conditions, many 55 populations show loss of these rhythms under constant darkness  . Cavefish populations have 56 also convergently evolved a drastic reduction in sleep compared to surface fish 27 . Alterations can 57 also be seen at the molecular level; an examination of clock genes (per1, per2, cry1a) in cave 58 and surface fish found changes in the expression level and timing of activation of these genes in 59 multiple cave populations. 36 Consequently, the Mexican tetra provides a unique opportunity to 60 4 study the evolutionary response of the biological clock and circadian rhythms to the arrhythmic 61 cave environment across multiple cave populations. 62 63 In vertebrates, circadian rhythms are regulated by transcriptional feedback loops, where clock 64 proteins directly or indirectly regulate the expression of the genes from which they are 65 transcribed. The feedback loops of the circadian clock result in oscillations of gene expression of 66 ~24 hours 42 . These oscillating transcripts make up the "circadian transcriptome" and are a 67 substantial source of rhythmic physiology and behavior 43-45 . The conserved nature of the 68 biological clock in vertebrates make comparative studies extremely powerful. Even across 69 evolutionary timescales, many clock genes and downstream regulators of circadian behavior 70 maintain similar functions. 45 While many species of cave-dwelling organisms show evidence of 71 weakened or absent locomotor rhythms 46-52 , no global analysis of transcriptional changes 72 associated with clock evolution has been performed in any cave species, including A. mexicanus. 73 Compari...
The Mexican tetra, Astyanax mexicanus, has undergone remarkable physiological and behavioral changes in order to colonize a number of subterranean caves in the Sierra de El Abra region of Mexico. A hallmark of cave-adapted populations is enhanced survival under low-nutrient conditions coupled with hyperglycemia, increased body fat, and insulin resistance, but cavefish appear to avoid the progression of the respective pathologies associated with these conditions and do not exhibit reduced longevity. The metabolic strategies underlying these adaptations are not fully understood. Here, we provide an untargeted metabolomics study of long- and short-term fasting in two A. mexicanus cave populations and one surface population. We find that, although cavefish share many similarities with metabolic syndrome normally associated with the human state of obesity, important differences emerge, including cholesterol esters, urate, intermediates of protein glycation, metabolites associated with hypoxia and longevity, and unexpectedly elevated levels of ascorbate (vitamin C). This work highlights the fact that certain metabolic features associated with human pathologies are not intrinsically harmful in all organisms, and suggests promising avenues for future investigation into the role of certain metabolites in evolutionary adaptation and health. We provide a transparent pipeline for reproducing our analysis and a Shiny app for other researchers to explore and visualize our dataset.
Physical inactivity is a scourge to human health, promoting metabolic disease and muscle wasting. Interestingly, multiple ecological niches have relaxed investment into physical activity, providing an evolutionary perspective into the effect of adaptive physical inactivity on tissue homeostasis. One such example, the Mexican cavefish Astyanax mexicanus, has lost moderate-to-vigorous activity following cave colonization, reaching basal swim speeds ~3.7-fold slower than their river-dwelling counterpart. This change in behavior is accompanied by a marked shift in body composition, decreasing total muscle mass and increasing fat mass. This shift persisted at the single muscle fiber level via increased lipid and sugar accumulation at the expense of myofibrillar volume. Transcriptomic analysis of laboratory-reared and wild-caught cavefish indicated that this shift is driven by increased expression of pparγ —the master regulator of adipogenesis—with a simultaneous decrease in fast myosin heavy chain expression. Ex vivo and in vivo analysis confirmed that these investment strategies come with a functional trade-off, decreasing cavefish muscle fiber shortening velocity, time to maximal force, and ultimately maximal swimming speed. Despite this, cavefish displayed a striking degree of muscular endurance, reaching maximal swim speeds ~3.5-fold faster than their basal swim speeds. Multi-omic analysis suggested metabolic reprogramming, specifically phosphorylation of Pgm1-Threonine 19, as a key component enhancing cavefish glycogen metabolism and sustained muscle contraction. Collectively, we reveal broad skeletal muscle changes following cave colonization, displaying an adaptive skeletal muscle phenotype reminiscent to mammalian disuse and high-fat models while simultaneously maintaining a unique capacity for sustained muscle contraction via enhanced glycogen metabolism.
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