Gene expression contributes to the recent evolution of host resistance in a model host parasite system


Heritable population differences in immune gene expression following infection can reveal mechanisms of host immune evolution. We compared gene expression in infected and uninfected threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) from two natural populations that differ in resistance to a native cestode parasite, Schistocephalus solidus. Genes in both the innate and adaptive immune system were differentially expressed as a function of host population, infection status, and their interaction. These genes were enriched for loci controlling immune functions known to differ between host populations or in response to infection. Coexpression network analysis identified two distinct processes contributing to resistance: parasite survival and suppression of growth. Comparing networks between populations showed resistant fish have a dynamic expression profile while susceptible fish are static. In summary, recent evolutionary divergence between two vertebrate populations has generated population-specific gene expression responses to parasite infection, affecting parasite establishment and growth.

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