Open Access Research article

The role of phenotypic plasticity on the proteome differences between two sympatric marine snail ecotypes adapted to distinct micro-habitats

Mónica Martínez-Fernández, María Páez de la Cadena and Emilio Rolán-Alvarez*

Author Affiliations

Departamento de Bioquímica, Genética e Inmunología, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Vigo, Campus Universitario, 36310 Vigo, Spain

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:65  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-65

Published: 8 March 2010



The role of phenotypic plasticity is increasingly being recognized in the field of evolutionary studies. In this paper we look at the role of genetic determination versus plastic response by comparing the protein expression profiles between two sympatric ecotypes adapted to different shore levels and habitats using two-dimensional protein maps.


We compared qualitative and quantitative differences in protein expression between pools of both ecotypes from different environments (field and laboratory conditions). The results suggested that ecotype differences may affect about 7% of the proteome in agreement with previous studies, and moreover these differences are basically insensitive to environmental changes. Thus, observed differences between wild ecotypes can be mainly attributed to genetic factors rather than phenotypic plasticity.


These results confirm the mechanism of adaptation already proposed in this species and a minor role of phenotypic plasticity in this ecological speciation process. In addition, this study provides a number of interesting protein spots potentially involved in adaptation, and therefore candidates for a future identification.