Age-dependent gene expression in the inner ear of big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus)

Beatrice Mao, Cynthia F. Moss, Gerald S. Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For echolocating bats, hearing is essential for survival. Specializations for detecting and processing high frequency sounds are apparent throughout their auditory systems. Recent studies on echolocating mammals have reported evidence of parallel evolution in some hearing-related genes in which distantly related groups of echolocating animals (bats and toothed whales), cluster together in gene trees due to apparent amino acid convergence. However, molecular adaptations can occur not only in coding sequences, but also in the regulation of gene expression. The aim of this study was to examine the expression of hearing-related genes in the inner ear of developing big brown bats, Eptesicus fuscus, during the period in which echolocation vocalizations increase dramatically in frequency. We found that seven genes were significantly upregulated in juveniles relative to adults, and that the expression of four genes through development correlated with estimated age. Compared to available data for mice, it appears that expression of some hearing genes is extended in juvenile bats. These results are consistent with a prolonged growth period required to develop larger cochlea relative to body size, a later maturation of high frequency hearing, and a greater dependence on high frequency hearing in echolocating bats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0186667
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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