Speciation is a fundamental evolutionary process, which results in genetic differentiation of populations and manifests as discrete morphological, physiological and behavioral differences. Each species has travelled its own evolutionary trajectory, influenced by random drift and driven by various types of natural selection, making the association of genetic differences between the species with the phenotypic differences extremely complex to dissect. In the present study, we have used an in vitro model to analyze in depth the genetic and gene regulation differences between fibroblasts of two closely related mammals, the arctic/subarctic mountain hare (Lepus timidus Linnaeus) and the temperate steppe-climate adapted brown hare (Lepus europaeus Pallas). We discovered the existence of a species-specific expression pattern of 1,623 genes, manifesting in differences in cell growth, cell cycle control, respiration, and metabolism. Interspecific differences in the housekeeping functions of fibroblast cells suggest that speciation acts on fundamental cellular processes, even in these two interfertile species. Our results help to understand the molecular constituents of a species difference on a cellular level, which could contribute to the maintenance of the species boundary.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics