Analysis of the FGF gene family provides insights into aquatic adaptation in cetaceans

Kiwoong Nam, Kyeong Won Lee, Oksung Chung, Hyung Soon Yim, Sun Shin Cha, Sae Won Lee, Jehoon Jun, Yun Sung Cho, Jong Bhak, João Pedro De Magalhães, Jung Hyun Lee, Jae Yeon Jeong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Cetacean body structure and physiology exhibit dramatic adaptations to their aquatic environment. Fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) are a family of essential factors that regulate animal development and physiology; however, their role in cetacean evolution is not clearly understood. Here, we sequenced the fin whale genome and analysed FGFs from 8 cetaceans. FGF22, a hair follicle-enriched gene, exhibited pseudogenization, indicating that the function of this gene is no longer necessary in cetaceans that have lost most of their body hair. An evolutionary analysis revealed signatures of positive selection for FGF3 and FGF11, genes related to ear and tooth development and hypoxia, respectively. We found a D203G substitution in cetacean FGF9, which was predicted to affect FGF9 homodimerization, suggesting that this gene plays a role in the acquisition of rigid flippers for efficient manoeuvring. Cetaceans utilize low bone density as a buoyancy control mechanism, but the underlying genes are not known. We found that the expression of FGF23, a gene associated with reduced bone density, is greatly increased in the cetacean liver under hypoxic conditions, thus implicating FGF23 in low bone density in cetaceans. Altogether, our results provide novel insights into the roles of FGFs in cetacean adaptation to the aquatic environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number40233
JournalScientific Reports
StatePublished - 11 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).


Dive into the research topics of 'Analysis of the FGF gene family provides insights into aquatic adaptation in cetaceans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this