Many species adapt to changing thermal environments by tuning their life-histories in favour of fitness maximization. But the options are constrained by trade-offs such as increasing offspring number at the cost of survivorship.
Trade-offs between fitness traits are a central tenet in life-history theory and a key question is how they are regulated across different genotypes and environments. Although a few studies have shed some light on the loci and genes associated with trade-offs, they have not revealed the heritable transcriptional regulation which act in natural populations under different environmental regimes.
We previously reported that gene regulatory networks in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans are very adaptable to changing temperature regimes. More recently we showed that the trade-off between lifespan and offspring in different C. elegans genotypes was highly regulated by a handful of genes at 20°C. We now want to follow up these results by studying the genetic mechanisms of life-history trade-offs in C. elegans in different temperature regimes. We will search for trade-offs between traits in different environments and aim to identify the gene transcription regulation underlying these trade-offs using gene expression-QTL (eQTL) mapping and RNA-seq technologies. This project is the first analysis of the transcriptional architecture of life-history variation conducted for any species. We hope to be the first who will identify the genetic determinants of life-history trade-offs in natural populations under different environmental regimes.