Linking HIF oxygen-sensing system diversity to hypoxia fitness in Eleutheronema : Molecular characterization and transcriptional response to hypoxia exposure

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Original languageEnglish
Article number168646
Journal / PublicationScience of the Total Environment
Online published17 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2024


Hypoxia is a mounting environmental problem affecting coastal waters globally, posing severe consequences for biodiversity and marine life. Metazoans respond to hypoxia stress via the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) pathway, but few studies have addressed the gene diversity of the functionally important HIF-pathway. Understanding whether functional diversity exists in the HIF-pathway is a key first step in identifying genes that may impact hypoxia fitness. Here, we leveraged whole-genome resequencing data and bioinformatics tools to identify the key members of the HIF-pathway (HIFα/β, EGLN, and VHL) and genetic diversity in the threatened Eleutheronema. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that teleost-specific duplicates of epas1 (epas1a/b) were followed by the loss of one of each hif1α and hif1αl in Eleutheronema species. Strong collinearity and similarity of gene characteristics suggested the functional conservation of the HIF-pathway during Eleutheronema evolution. Purifying selection was the major theme in HIF-pathway evolution, leading to a reduction in genetic diversity. Substantially low nucleotide diversity of the HIF-pathway was observed among populations, which might indicate the loss of hypoxia fitness in Eleutheronema. Additionally, the normoxic presence of the HIF-pathway differed among tissues and was species-dependent, indicating their diverse roles during development. Significant regulation of HIF-pathway expression levels was observed across tissues under hypoxic conditions, suggesting critical roles in the hypoxia stress response. Moreover, variant molecular characters suggested different roles in response to hypoxia of the HIF-pathway, which were reflected in the different expression patterns across tissues. Our present study provides novel insights into the interplay between gene diversity within the HIF-pathway and hypoxia fitness in threatened Eleutheronema. We highlighted the importance of HIF-pathway-mediated transcriptional regulation in response to hypoxia stress, which provided valuable information for the genetic mechanisms underlying hypoxia adaptation in fish. The bioinformatic methods developed here have broad applications for other species. © 2023 Elsevier B.V.

Research Area(s)

  • Eleutheronema, Genetic diversity, HIF-pathway, Hypoxia

Citation Format(s)