Waveband Specific Transcriptional Control of Select Genetic Pathways in Vertebrate Skin (Xiphophorus maculatus)
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Background: Evolution occurred exclusively under the full spectrum of sunlight. Conscription of narrow regions of the solar spectrum by specific photoreceptors suggests a common strategy for regulation of genetic pathways. Fluorescent light (FL) does not possess the complexity of the solar spectrum and has only been in service for about 60 years. If vertebrates evolved specific genetic responses regulated by light wavelengths representing the entire solar spectrum, there may be genetic consequences to reducing the spectral complexity of light.
Results: We utilized RNA-Seq to assess changes in the transcriptional profiles of Xiphophorus maculatus skin after exposure to FL ("cool white"), or narrow wavelength regions of light between 350 and 600 nm (i.e., 50 nm or 10 nm regions, herein termed "wavebands"). Exposure to each 50 nm waveband identified sets of genes representing discrete pathways that showed waveband specific transcriptional modulation. For example, 350-400 or 450-500 nm waveband exposures resulted in opposite regulation of gene sets marking necrosis and apoptosis (i.e., 350-400 nm; necrosis suppression, apoptosis activation, while 450-500 nm; apoptosis suppression, necrosis activation). Further investigation of specific transcriptional modulation employing successive 10 nm waveband exposures between 500 and 550 nm showed; (a) greater numbers of genes may be transcriptionally modulated after 10 nm exposures, than observed for 50 nm or FL exposures, (b) the 10 nm wavebands induced gene sets showing greater functional specificity than 50 nm or FL exposures, and (c) the genetic effects of FL are primarily due to 30 nm between 500 and 530 nm. Interestingly, many genetic pathways exhibited completely opposite transcriptional effects after different waveband exposures. For example, the epidermal growth factor (EGF) pathway exhibits transcriptional suppression after FL exposure, becomes highly active after 450-500 nm waveband exposure, and again, exhibits strong transcriptional suppression after exposure to the 520-530 nm waveband.
Conclusions: Collectively, these results suggest one may manipulate transcription of specific genetic pathways in skin by exposure of the intact animal to specific wavebands of light. In addition, we identify genes transcriptionally modulated in a predictable manner by specific waveband exposures. Such genes, and their regulatory elements, may represent valuable tools for genetic engineering and gene therapy protocols.