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Divergence and plasticity shape adaptive potential of the Pacific oyster


The interplay between divergence and phenotypic plasticity is critical to our understanding of a species’ adaptive potential under rapid climate changes. We investigated divergence and plasticity in natural populations of the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas with a congeneric oyster Crassostrea angulata from southern China used as an outgroup. Genome re-sequencing of 371 oysters revealed unexpected genetic divergence in a small area that coincided with phenotypic divergence in growth, physiology, heat tolerance and gene expression across environmental gradients. These findings suggest that selection and local adaptation are pervasive and, together with limited gene flow, influence population structure. Genes showing sequence differentiation between populations also diverged in transcriptional response to heat stress. Plasticity in gene expression is positively correlated with evolved divergence, indicating that plasticity is adaptive and favoured by organisms under dynamic environments. Divergence in heat tolerance—partly through acetylation-mediated energy depression—implies differentiation in adaptive potential. Trade-offs between growth and survival may play an important role in local adaptation of oysters and other marine invertebrates.

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Data availability

The whole-genome re-sequencing and transcriptome datasets were deposited in the Sequence Read Archive (SRA) database under the accession number PRJNA394055. The proteome and acetylome data are available via the ProteomeXchange Consortium with the identifier PXD008057.


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G.Z. and L.L. are supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31530079 to G.Z. and 31572620 to L.L.). G.Z. is supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the ‘Western Pacific Ocean System: Structure, Dynamics and Consequences’ project (XDA 11020305), Blue Life Breakthrough Program of LMBB (MS2018NO02) of Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, and Modern Agro-industry Technology Research System (CARS-49). X.G. is supported by the ‘Taishan Overseas Scholar Program’ of Shandong and USDA/NJAES project 1004475/NJ32920. We thank J. Yan for suggestions on the experimental design and data analyses, Q. Li, Z. Yu, C. Ke, Z. Zeng, Y. Ning and Y. Bao for sampling collection, and B. Yin and J. Qi for information on marine currents.

Author information

L.L. and G.Z. conceived the study and designed the major scientific objectives. X.G. participated in the final data analysis and interpretation. L.L., W.W., H. Que, F.W., H. Qi, F.X., R.C., B.H., S. Zhang and Y. Li. participated in the collection of wild oysters. L.L., W.W., H. Qi., J.M., S.Z., C.L., T.W. and A.L. participated in oyster breeding for F1 and F2 generations. A.L., X.T., S.Liu, B.L., R.S. and Y. Liu. participated in larval rearing and adult management. J.M., C.L., T.W., X.T. and A.L. conducted DNA extraction and sequencing library preparation. K.S., S.Li, C.Z. and W.H. performed the genome sequencing. K.S., S.Li, C.Z., W.H., S. Zhao and A.L. contributed to the re-sequencing data analysis. A.L. and X.T. participated in the morphological measurements and sample collection for physiological and cellular determinations. A.L. conducted the laboratory experiments for measuring physiological and cellular parameters, as well as data analysis. A.L. conducted messenger RNA extraction for transcriptome and data analysis, and protein extraction for proteome and acetylome analysis. A.L. and C.B. contributed to data analysis of the proteome and acetylome. H.L. collected data on the monthly average SST. L.L., A.L., K.S., X.G., P.D.W., J.M., L.Z. and G.Z. did most of the writing and revision, with input from all authors. All authors approved the manuscript.

Correspondence to Guofan Zhang.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figures and Tables

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Table 3

Mapping statistics for Pacific oyster samples resequenced

Supplementary Table 4

SNP statistics in different genomic regions for each Pacific oyster sample

Supplementary Table 8

Genes from genomic regions under selection in Bohai and southern Yellow Seas and their FST values

Supplementary Table 9

GO enrichment analysis of genes from regions under selection in Bohai and southern Yellow Seas

Supplementary Table 10

Annotation of genes from regions under selection in Bohai and southern Yellow Seas

Supplementary Table 11

Summary statistics of transcriptome dataset

Supplementary Table 12

Genes exhibiting significant transcriptional response at 6 and 24 hr of heat shock in oysters from JZ and QD

Supplementary Table 13

Summary statistics of proteome and acetylome datasets

Supplementary Table 14

Numbers of proteins and acetyl sites showing differential abundance

Supplementary Table 16

Genes exhibiting both significantly differential expression in response to high temperature and differential plasticity at 6 and 24 hr in oysters from JZ and QD

Supplementary Table 17

Acetyl sites exhibiting differential plasticity in proteins of major energy metabolic pathways when oysters were exposed to high temperature for 6 and 24 hr

Supplementary Table 18

Expression level of proteins corresponding to acetyl sites exhibiting differential plasticity in key energy metabolic pathways

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Further reading

Fig. 1: Geographic distribution and population divergence of Pacific oysters in northern China.
Fig. 2: Adaptive divergence in phenotypic traits at morphological, physiological and cellular levels among 11 oyster populations measured in F1 progeny in a common-garden environment.
Fig. 3: Multi-omic analyses of two representative northern (JZ) and southern (QD) oyster populations in response to acute heat stress.
Fig. 4: Relationship between evolved divergence and plasticity.
Fig. 5: Energy repression by acetylation in Pacific oysters.