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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Functional differences between TSHR alleles associate with variation in spawning season in Atlantic herring

Chen, Junfeng; Bi, Huijuan; Pettersson, Mats E.; Sato, Daiki X.; Fuentes-Pardo, Angela P.; Mo, Chunheng; Younis, Shady; Wallerman, Ola; Jern, Patric; Moles, Gregorio; Gomez, Ana; Kleinau, Gunnar; Scheerer, Patrick; Andersson, Leif


The underlying molecular mechanisms that determine long day versus short day breeders remain unknown in any organism. Atlantic herring provides a unique opportunity to examine the molecular mechanisms involved in reproduction timing, because both spring and autumn spawners exist within the same species. Although our previous whole genome comparisons revealed a strong association of TSHR alleles with spawning seasons, the functional consequences of these variants remain unknown. Here we examined the functional significance of six candidate TSHR mutations strongly associated with herring reproductive seasonality. We show that the L471M missense mutation in the spring-allele causes enhanced cAMP signaling. The best candidate non-coding mutation is a 5.2kb retrotransposon insertion upstream of the TSHR transcription start site, near an open chromatin region, which is likely to affect TSHR expression. The insertion occurred prior to the split between Pacific and Atlantic herring and was lost in the autumn-allele. Our study shows that strongly associated coding and non-coding variants at the TSHR locus may both contribute to the regulation of seasonal reproduction in herring. Junfeng Chen et al. examine potential functional consequences of reproduction timing-associated TSHR alleles segregating in Atlantic herring. By comparing fish that spawn during the spring to those that spawn in the autumn, they find that the spring-allele is correlated with enhanced cAMP signaling and that both coding and non-coding variants in the TSHR locus contribute to seasonal reproduction.

Published in

Communications biology
2021, Volume: 4, number: 1, article number: 795Publisher: NATURE RESEARCH

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
    Fish and Aquacultural Science

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