Department of Zoology and Animal Biology, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
The phenotype produced by a given genotype can be strongly modulated by environmental conditions. Therefore, natural populations continuously adapt to environment heterogeneity to maintain optimal phenotypes. It generates a high genetic variation in environment-sensitive gene networks, which is thought to facilitate evolution. Here we analyze the chromatin regulator crm, identified as a candidate for adaptation of Drosophila melanogaster to northern latitudes. We show that crm contributes to environmental canalization. In particular, crm modulates the effect of temperature on a genomic region encoding Hedgehog and Wingless signaling effectors. crm affects this region through both constitutive heterochromatin and Polycomb silencing. Furthermore, we show that crm European and African natural variants shift the reaction norms of plastic traits. Interestingly, traits modulated by crm natural variants can differ markedly between Drosophila species, suggesting that temperature adaptation facilitates their evolution.