Fish Physiology and Biochemistry

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 557–571 | Cite as

Molecular evolution of myoglobin in the Tibetan Plateau endemic schizothoracine fish (Cyprinidae, Teleostei) and tissue-specific expression changes under hypoxia

  • Delin Qi
  • Yan Chao
  • Yongli Zhao
  • Mingzhe Xia
  • Rongrong Wu


Myoglobin (Mb) is an oxygen-binding hemoprotein that was once thought to be exclusively expressed in oxidative myocytes of skeletal and cardiac muscle where it serves in oxygen storage and facilitates intracellular oxygen diffusion. In this study, we cloned the coding sequence of the Mb gene from four species, representing three groups, of the schizothoracine fish endemic to the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP), then conducted molecular evolution analyses. We also investigated tissue expression patterns of Mb and the expression response to moderate and severe hypoxia at the mRNA and protein levels in a representative of the highly specialized schizothoracine fish species, Schizopygopsis pylzovi. Molecular evolution analyses showed that Mb from the highly specialized schizothoracine fish have undergone positive selection and one positively selected residue (81L) was identified, which is located in the F helix, close to or in contact with the heme. We present tentative evidence that the Mb duplication event occurred in the ancestor of the schizothoracine and Cyprininae fish (common carp and goldfish), and that the Mb2 paralog was subsequently lost in the schizothoracine fish. In S. pylzovi, Mb mRNA is expressed in various tissues with the exception of the intestine and gill, but all such tissues, including the liver, muscle, kidney, brain, eye, and skin, expressed very low levels of Mb mRNA (< 8.0%) relative to that of the heart. The trace levels of Mb expression in non-muscle tissues are perhaps the major reason why non-muscle Mb remained undiscovered for so long. The expression response of the Mb gene to hypoxia at the mRNA and protein levels was strikingly different in S. pylzovi compared to that found in the common carp, medaka, zebrafish, and goldfish, suggesting that the hypoxia response of Mb in fish may be species and tissue-specific. Notably, severe hypoxia induced significant expression of Mb at the mRNA and protein levels in the S. pylzovi heart, which suggests Mb has a major role in the supply of oxygen to the heart of Tibetan Plateau fish.


Schizothoracine fishes Myoglobin Evolution Expression Hypoxia Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau 



We would like to thank the native English speaking scientists of Elixigen Company (Huntington Beach, California) for editing our manuscript.


This work was supported by grants to D. Qi from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31460094) and the Natural Science Foundation of Qinghai Science & Technology Department in China (2015-ZJ-901).

Compliance with ethical standards

All research involving animals in this study followed the bylaws for experiments on animals and was approved by the Animal Care and Use Committee of Qinghai University. All specimens were collected as live specimens from their habitats with the permission of the Wild Animal and Plant Protection Station of Qinghai Province and Autonomous Region, China.

Supplementary material

10695_2017_453_MOESM1_ESM.doc (31 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 31 kb)
10695_2017_453_MOESM2_ESM.doc (16 kb)
ESM 2 (DOC 15.9 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Delin Qi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yan Chao
    • 2
  • Yongli Zhao
    • 2
  • Mingzhe Xia
    • 1
  • Rongrong Wu
    • 2
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Plateau Ecology and AgricultureQinghai UniversityXiningChina
  2. 2.Animal Science Department of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry CollegeQinghai UniversityXiningChina

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