Female-biased population divergence in the venom of the Hentz striped scorpion (Centruroides hentzi)


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Abstract

Sex-biased genes are expressed at higher levels in one sex and contribute to phenotypic differences between males and females, as well as overall phenotypic variation within and among populations. Venom has evolved primarily for predation and defense, making venom expression a highly variable phenotype as a result of local adaptation. Several scorpion species have shown both intraspecific and intersexual venom variation, and males have been observed using venom in courtship and mating, suggesting the existence of venom-specific, sex-biased genes that may contribute to population divergence. We used reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC), Agilent protein bioanalyzer chips, nano-liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (nLC/MS/MS), and median lethal dose (LD50) assays in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) and banded crickets (Gryllodes sigillatus) to investigate proteomic and functional venom variation within and among three Florida populations of the Hentz striped scorpion (Centruroides hentzi). We found significant venom variation among populations, with females, not males, being responsible for this divergence. We also found significant variation in venom expression within populations, with males contributing more to within population variation than females. Our results provide evidence that male and female scorpions experience different natural and sexual selective pressures that have led to the expression of sex-biased venom genes and that these genes may be consequential in population divergence.HighlightsCompositional and functional venom variation is established among populations and between sexes in Centruroides hentzi.Evidence of potential sex-biased venom genes resulting from sex-specific selective pressures within C. hentzi is reported.Venom variation among populations of C. hentzi is female-biased.Male C. hentzi contribute more to within population venom variation.Sodium-channel toxins identified in the most variable peak present in RP-HPLC venom profiles.

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