Differentially expressed genes identified by cross-species microarray in the blind cavefish Astyanax. Academic Article uri icon


  • Changes in gene expression were examined by microarray analysis during development of the eyed surface dwelling (surface fish) and blind cave-dwelling (cavefish) forms of the teleost Astyanax mexicanus De Filippi, 1853. The cross-species microarray used surface and cavefish RNA hybridized to a DNA chip prepared from a closely related species, the zebrafish Danio rerio Hamilton, 1822. We identified a total of 67 differentially expressed probe sets at three days post-fertilization: six upregulated and 61 downregulated in cavefish relative to surface fish. Many of these genes function either in eye development and/or maintenance, or in programmed cell death. The upregulated probe set showing the highest mean fold change was similar to the human ubiquitin specific protease 53 gene. The downregulated probe sets showing some of the highest fold changes corresponded to genes with roles in eye development, including those encoding gamma crystallins, the guanine nucleotide binding proteins Gnat1 and Gant2, a BarH-like homeodomain transcription factor, and rhodopsin. Downregulation of gamma-crystallin and rhodopsin was confirmed by in situ hybridization and immunostaining with specific antibodies. Additional downregulated genes encode molecules that inhibit or activate programmed cell death. The results suggest that cross-species microarray can be used for identifying differentially expressed genes in cavefish, that many of these genes might be involved in eye degeneration via apoptotic processes, and that more genes are downregulated than upregulated in cavefish, consistent with the predominance of morphological losses over gains during regressive evolution.

publication date

  • March 2009