Temperature Gradient Affects Differentiation of Gene Expression and SNP Allele Frequencies in the Dominant Lake Baikal Zooplankton Species

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Local adaptation and phenotypic plasticity are main mechanisms of organisms’ resilience in changing environments. Both are affected by gene flow and are expected to be weak in zooplankton populations inhabiting large continuous water bodies and strongly affected by currents. Lake Baikal, the deepest and one of the coldest lakes on Earth, experienced epilimnion temperature increase during the last 100 years, exposing Baikal’s zooplankton to novel selective pressures. We obtained a partial transcriptome of Epischura baikalensis (Copepoda: Calanoida), the dominant component of Baikal’s zooplankton, and estimated SNP allele frequencies and transcript abundances in samples from regions of Baikal that differ in multiyear average surface temperatures. The strongest signal in both SNP and transcript abundance differentiation is the SW-NE gradient along the 600+ km long axis of the lake, suggesting isolation by distance. SNP differentiation is stronger for nonsynonymous than synonymous SNPs and is paralleled by differential survival during a laboratory exposure to increased temperature, indicating directional selection operating on the temperature gradient. Transcript abundance, generally collinear with the SNP differentiation, shows samples from the warmest, less deep location clustering together with the southernmost samples. Differential expression is more frequent among transcripts orthologous to candidate thermal response genes previously identified in model arthropods, including genes encoding cytoskeleton proteins, heat-shock proteins, proteases, enzymes of central energy metabolism, lipid and antioxidant pathways. We conclude that the pivotal endemic zooplankton species in Lake Baikal exists under temperature-mediated selection and possesses both genetic variation and plasticity to respond to novel temperature-related environmental pressures.