A change of expression in the conserved signaling gene MKK7 is associated with a selective sweep in the western house mouse Mus musculus domesticus.


Changes in gene expression are known to occur between closely related species, but it is not yet clear how many of these are due to random fixation of allelic variants or due to adaptive events. In a microarray survey between subspecies of the Mus musculus complex, we identified the mitogen-activated protein-kinase-kinase MKK7 as a candidate for change in gene expression. Quantitative PCR experiments with multiple individuals from each subspecies confirmed a specific and significant up-regulation in the testis of M. m. domesticus. Northern blot analysis shows that this is due to a new transcript that is not found in other tissues, nor in M. m. musculus. A cis-trans test via allele specific expression analysis of the MKK7 gene in F1 hybrids between domesticus and musculus shows that the expression change is mainly caused by a mutation located in cis. Nucleotide diversity was found to be significantly reduced in a window of at least 20 kb around the MKK7 locus in domesticus, indicative of a selective sweep. Because the MKK7 gene is involved in modulating a kinase signalling cascade in a stress response pathway, it seems a plausible target for adaptive differences between subspecies, although the functional role of the new testis-specific transcripts will need to be further studied.

J Evol Biol