4 years ago

Evolution of nonspectral rhodopsin function at high altitudes [Evolution]

Evolution of nonspectral rhodopsin function at high altitudes [Evolution]
Sarah Z. Dungan, Frances E. Hauser, Brian S. Liao, Ryan K. Schott, Nathan K. Lujan, Gianni M. Castiglione, Nihar Bhattacharyya, Belinda S. W. Chang, Alexander Van Nynatten, James M. Morrow

High-altitude environments present a range of biochemical and physiological challenges for organisms through decreases in oxygen, pressure, and temperature relative to lowland habitats. Protein-level adaptations to hypoxic high-altitude conditions have been identified in multiple terrestrial endotherms; however, comparable adaptations in aquatic ectotherms, such as fishes, have not been as extensively characterized. In enzyme proteins, cold adaptation is attained through functional trade-offs between stability and activity, often mediated by substitutions outside the active site. Little is known whether signaling proteins [e.g., G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs)] exhibit natural variation in response to cold temperatures. Rhodopsin (RH1), the temperature-sensitive visual pigment mediating dim-light vision, offers an opportunity to enhance our understanding of thermal adaptation in a model GPCR. Here, we investigate the evolution of rhodopsin function in an Andean mountain catfish system spanning a range of elevations. Using molecular evolutionary analyses and site-directed mutagenesis experiments, we provide evidence for cold adaptation in RH1. We find that unique amino acid substitutions occur at sites under positive selection in high-altitude catfishes, located at opposite ends of the RH1 intramolecular hydrogen-bonding network. Natural high-altitude variants introduced into these sites via mutagenesis have limited effects on spectral tuning, yet decrease the stability of dark-state and light-activated rhodopsin, accelerating the decay of ligand-bound forms. As found in cold-adapted enzymes, this phenotype likely compensates for a cold-induced decrease in kinetic rates—properties of rhodopsin that mediate rod sensitivity and visual performance. Our results support a role for natural variation in enhancing the performance of GPCRs in response to cold temperatures.

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