Molecular parallelism in fast-twitch muscle proteins in echolocating mammals

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Science Advances  26 Sep 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 9, eaat9660
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat9660


Detecting associations between genomic changes and phenotypic differences is fundamental to understanding how phenotypes evolved. By systematically screening for parallel amino acid substitutions, we detected known as well as novel cases (Strc, Tecta, and Cabp2) of parallelism between echolocating bats and toothed whales in proteins that could contribute to high-frequency hearing adaptations. Our screen also showed that echolocating mammals exhibit an unusually high number of parallel substitutions in fast-twitch muscle fiber proteins. Both echolocating bats and toothed whales produce an extremely rapid call rate when homing in on their prey, which was shown in bats to be powered by specialized superfast muscles. We show that these genes with parallel substitutions (Casq1, Atp2a1, Myh2, and Myl1) are expressed in the superfast sound-producing muscle of bats. Furthermore, we found that the calcium storage protein calsequestrin 1 of the little brown bat and the bottlenose dolphin functionally converged in its ability to form calcium-sequestering polymers at lower calcium concentrations, which may contribute to rapid calcium transients required for superfast muscle physiology. The proteins that our genomic screen detected could be involved in the convergent evolution of vocalization in echolocating mammals by potentially contributing to both rapid Ca2+ transients and increased shortening velocities in superfast muscles.

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