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Title

Mitochondria-targeted molecules determine the redness of the zebra finch bill

AuthorsCantarero, Alejandro ; Alonso-Álvarez, Carlos
KeywordsUbiquinone
Shared pathway hypothesis
Carotenoids
Antioxidants
Animal coloration
Issue Date25-Oct-2017
PublisherRoyal Society (Great Britain)
CitationBiology Letters 13(10): 20170455 (2017)
AbstractThe evolution and production mechanisms of red carotenoid-based ornaments in animals are poorly understood. Recently, it has been suggested that enzymes transforming yellow carotenoids to red pigments (ketolases) in animal cells may be positioned in the inner mitochondrial membrane (IMM) intimately linked to the electron transport chain. These enzymes may mostly synthesize coenzyme Q10 (coQ10), a key redox-cycler antioxidant molecularly similar to yellow carotenoids. It has been hypothesized that this shared pathway favours the evolution of red traits as sexually selected individual quality indices by revealing a well-adjusted oxidative metabolism. We administered mitochondria-targeted molecules to male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) measuring their bill redness, a trait produced by transforming yellow carotenoids. One molecule included coQ10 (mitoquinone mesylate, MitoQ) and the other one (decyl-triphenylphosphonium; dTPP) has the same structure without the coQ10 aromatic ring. At the highest dose, the bill colour of MitoQ and dTPP birds strongly differed: MitoQ birds' bills were redder and dTPP birds showed paler bills even compared to birds injected with saline only. These results suggest that ketolases are indeed placed at the IMM and that coQ10 antioxidant properties may improve their efficiency. The implications for evolutionary theories of sexual signalling are discussed.
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/10261/162082
Identifiersdoi: 10.1098/rsbl.2017.0455
issn: 1744-9561
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