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Early duplication and functional diversification of the opsin gene family in insects.

  • Author(s): Spaethe, Johannes;
  • Briscoe, Adriana D
  • et al.

Recent analysis of the complete mosquito Anopheles gambiae genome has revealed a far higher number of opsin genes than for either the Drosophila melanogaster genome or any other known insect. In particular, the analysis revealed an extraordinary opsin gene content expansion, whereby half are long wavelength-sensitive (LW) opsin gene duplicates. We analyzed this genomic data in relationship to other known insect opsins to estimate the relative timing of the LW opsin gene duplications and to identify "missing" paralogs in extant species. The inferred branching patterns of the LW opsin gene family phylogeny indicate at least one early gene duplication within insects before the emergence of the orders Orthoptera, Mantodea, Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, and Diptera. These data predict the existence of one more LW opsin gene than is currently known from most insects. We tested this prediction by using a degenerate PCR strategy to screen the hymenopteran genome for novel LW opsin genes. We isolated two LW opsin gene sequences from each of five bee species, Bombus impatiens, B. terrestris, Diadasia afflicta, D. rinconis, and Osmia rufa, including 1.1 to 1.2 kb from a known (LW Rh1) and 1 kb from a new opsin gene (LW Rh2). Phylogenetic analysis suggests that the novel hymenopteran gene is orthologous to A. gambiae GPRop7, a gene that is apparently missing from D. melanogaster. Relative rate tests show that LW Rh2 is evolving at a slower rate than LW Rh1 and, therefore, may be a useful marker for higher-level hymenopteran systematics. Site-specific rate tests indicate the presence of several amino acid sites between LW Rh1 and LW Rh2 that have undergone shifts in selective constraints after duplication. These sites and others are discussed in relationship to putative structural and functional differences between the two genes.

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