Characterizing the reproductive transcriptomic correlates of acute dehydration in males in the desert-adapted rodent,Peromyscus eremicus

Academic Article


  • The understanding of genomic and physiological mechanisms related to how organisms living in extreme environments survive and reproduce is an outstanding question facing evolutionary and organismal biologists. One interesting example of adaptation is related to the survival of mammals in deserts, where extreme water limitation is common. Research on desert rodent adaptations has focused predominantly on adaptations related to surviving dehydration, while potential reproductive physiology adaptations for acute and chronic dehydration have been relatively neglected. This study aims to explore the reproductive consequences of acute dehydration by utilizing RNAseq data in the desert-specialized cactus mouse (Peromyscus eremicus) . Specifically, we exposed 22 male cactus mice to either acute dehydration or control (fully hydrated) treatment conditions, quasimapped testes-derived reads to a cactus mouse testes transcriptome, and then evaluated patterns of differential transcript and gene expression. Following statistical evaluation with multiple analytical pipelines, nine genes were consistently differentially expressed between the hydrated and dehydrated mice. We hypothesized that male cactus mice would exhibit minimal reproductive responses to dehydration; therefore, this low number of differentially expressed genes between treatments aligns with current perceptions of this species' extreme desert specialization. However, these differentially expressed genes include Insulin-like 3 (Insl3), a regulator of male fertility and testes descent, as well as the solute carriers Slc45a3 and Slc38a5, which are membrane transport proteins that may facilitate osmoregulation. Together, these results suggest that in male cactus mice, acute dehydration may be linked to reproductive modulation via Insl3, but not through gene expression differences in the subset of other a priori tested reproductive hormones. Although water availability is a reproductive cue in desert-rodents exposed to chronic drought, potential reproductive modification via Insl3 in response to acute water-limitation is a result which is unexpected in an animal capable of surviving and successfully reproducing year-round without available external water sources. Indeed, this work highlights the critical need for integrative research that examines every facet of organismal adaptation, particularly in light of global climate change, which is predicted, amongst other things, to increase climate variability, thereby exposing desert animals more frequently to the acute drought conditions explored here.
  • Authors

  • Kordonowy, Lauren
  • MacManes, Matthew
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • 2016
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)