Molecular adaptation of the CREB-Binding Protein for aquatic living in cetaceans

  • Received : 2014.12.24
  • Accepted : 2015.01.12
  • Published : 2014.12.31


Cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) are aquatic mammals that experienced drastic changes during the transition from terrestrial to aquatic environment. Morphological changes include streamlined body, alterations in the face, transformation of the forelimbs into flippers, disappearance of the hindlimbs and the acquisition of flukes on the tail. For a prolonged diving, cetaceans acquired hypoxia-resistance by developing various anatomical and physiological changes. However, molecular mechanisms underlying these adaptations are still limited. CREB-binding protein (CREBBP) is a transcriptional co-activator critical for embryonic development, growth control, metabolic homeostasis and responses to hypoxia. Natural selection analysis of five cetacean CREBBPs compared with those from 15 terrestrial relatives revealed strong purifying selection, supporting the importance of its role in mammals. However, prediction for amino acid changes that elicit functional difference of CREBBP identified three cetacean specific changes localized within a region required for interaction with SRCAP and in proximal regions to KIX domain of CREBBP. Mutations in CREBBP or SRCAP are known to cause craniofacial and skeletal defects in human, and KIX domain of CREBBP serves as a docking site for transcription factors including c-Myb, an essential regulator of haematopoiesis. In these respects, our study provides interesting insights into the functional adaptation of cetacean CREBBP for aquatic lifestyle.


cetacean;CREB-binding protein;aquatic adaptation;craniofacial;haematopoiesis


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Supported by : KIOST (Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology