Experiencing short heat waves early in development changes thermal responsiveness of turtle embryos to later heat waves

Abstract

Although physiological responses to the thermal environment are most frequently investigated using constant temperatures, the incorporation of thermal variability can allow for a more accurate prediction of how thermally sensitive species respond to a rapidly changing climate. In species with temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD), developmental responses to incubation temperature are mediated by several genes involved in gonadal differentiation. Kdm6b and Dmrt1 respond to cool incubation temperatures and are associated with testis development, while FoxL2 and Cyp19A1 respond to warm incubation temperatures and are associated with ovary development. Using fluctuating incubation temperatures, we designed two studies, one investigating how conflicting thermal cues affect the timing of commitment to gonadal development, and another investigating the rapid molecular responses to conflicting thermal cues in the red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta). Using gene expression as a proxy of timing of commitment to gonadal fate, results from the first study show that exposure to high amounts of conflicting thermal cues during development delays commitment to gonadal fate. Results from the second study show that Kdm6b splice variants exhibit differential responses to early heat wave exposure, but rapidly (within 2 days) recover to pre-exposure levels after the heat wave. Despite changes in the expression of Kdm6b splice variants, there was no effect on Dmrt1 expression. Collectively, these findings demonstrate how short exposures to heat early in development can change how embryos respond to heat later in development.

Description

© 2023. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. cc-by

Keywords

Alternative splicing, Gene expression, Sex determination, Temperature fluctuation

Citation

Breitenbach, A.T., Marroquin-Flores, R.A., Paitz, R.T., & Bowden, R.M.. 2023. Experiencing short heat waves early in development changes thermal responsiveness of turtle embryos to later heat waves. Journal of Experimental Biology, 226(18). https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.246235

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