Department of Zoology and Animal Biology, University of Geneva, 30 quai Ernest Ansermet, 1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland. email@example.com
BACKGROUND: Fast evolving genes are targets of an increasing panel of biological studies, from cancer research to population genetics and species specific adaptations. Yet, their identification and isolation are still laborious, particularly for non-model organisms. We developed a method, named the Inter-Specific Selective Hybridization (ISSH) method, for generating cDNA libraries enriched in fast evolving genes. It utilizes transcripts of homologous tissues of distinct yet related species. Experimental hybridization conditions are monitored in order to discard transcripts that do not find their homologous counterparts in the two species sets as well as transcripts that display a strong complementarity between the two species. Only heteroduplexes that disanneal at low stringency are used for constructing the resulting cDNA library. RESULTS: We demonstrate the efficiency of the ISSH method by generating a brain cDNA library enriched in fast evolving transcripts of a non-model catfish species as well as a control, non-enriched library. Our results indicate that the enriched library contains effectively more fast evolving sequences than the control library. Gene annotation analyses also indicate enrichment in genes with low expression levels and non-ubiquitously expressed genes, both categories encompassing the majority of fast evolving genes. Furthermore, most of the identified transcripts show higher sequence divergence between two closely related catfish species as compared to recognized fast evolving DNA markers. CONCLUSIONS: The ISSH method offers a simple, inexpensive and efficient way to screen the transcriptome for isolating fast evolving genes. This method opens new opportunities in the investigation of biological mechanisms that include fast evolving genes, such as the evolution of lineage specific processes and traits responsible for species adaptation to their environment.