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46 Janelia Publications

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    12/14/20 | Cis-regulatory variation in the shavenbaby gene underlies intraspecific phenotypic variation, mirroring interspecific divergence in the same trait.
    Soverna AF, Rodriguez NC, Korgaonkar A, Hasson E, Stern DL, Frankel N
    Evolution. 2020 Dec 14:. doi: 10.1111/evo.14142

    Despite considerable progress in recent decades in dissecting the genetic causes of natural morphological variation, there is limited understanding of how variation within species ultimately contributes to species differences. We have studied patterning of the non-sensory hairs, commonly known as "trichomes," on the dorsal cuticle of first-instar larvae of Drosophila. Most Drosophila species produce a dense lawn of dorsal trichomes, but a subset of these trichomes were lost in D. sechellia and D. ezoana due entirely to regulatory evolution of the shavenbaby (svb) gene. Here, we describe intraspecific variation in dorsal trichome patterns of first-instar larvae of D. virilis that is similar to the trichome pattern variation identified previously between species. We found that a single large effect QTL, which includes svb, explains most of the trichome number difference between two D. virilis strains and that svb expression correlates with the trichome difference between strains. This QTL does not explain the entire difference between strains, implying that additional loci contribute to variation in trichome numbers. Thus, the genetic architecture of intraspecific variation exhibits similarities and differences with interspecific variation that may reflect differences in long-term and short-term evolutionary processes.

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    11/01/20 | Dense and pleiotropic regulatory information in a developmental enhancer.
    Fuqua T, Jordan J, van Breugel ME, Halavatyi A, Tischer C, Polidoro P, Abe N, Tsai A, Mann RS, Stern DL, Crocker J
    Nature. 2020 Nov 01;587(7833):235-39. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2816-5

    Changes in gene regulation underlie much of phenotypic evolution. However, our understanding of the potential for regulatory evolution is biased, because most evidence comes from either natural variation or limited experimental perturbations. Using an automated robotics pipeline, we surveyed an unbiased mutation library for a developmental enhancer in Drosophila melanogaster. We found that almost all mutations altered gene expression and that parameters of gene expression-levels, location, and state-were convolved. The widespread pleiotropic effects of most mutations may constrain the evolvability of developmental enhancers. Consistent with these observations, comparisons of diverse Drosophila larvae revealed apparent biases in the phenotypes influenced by the enhancer. Developmental enhancers may encode a higher density of regulatory information than has been appreciated previously, imposing constraints on regulatory evolution.

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    05/03/20 | Co-evolving wing spots and mating displays are genetically separable traits in Drosophila.
    Massey JH, Rice GR, Firdaus A, Chen C, Yeh S, Stern DL, Wittkopp PJ
    Evolution. 2020 May 03;74(6):1098-1111. doi: 10.1111/evo.13990

    The evolution of sexual traits often involves correlated changes in morphology and behavior. For example, in Drosophila, divergent mating displays are often accompanied by divergent pigment patterns. To better understand how such traits co-evolve, we investigated the genetic basis of correlated divergence in wing pigmentation and mating display between the sibling species Drosophila elegans and D. gunungcola. Drosophila elegans males have an area of black pigment on their wings known as a wing spot and appear to display this spot to females by extending their wings laterally during courtship. By contrast, D. gunungcola lost both of these traits. Using Multiplexed Shotgun Genotyping (MSG), we identified a ∼440 kb region on the X chromosome that behaves like a genetic switch controlling the presence or absence of male-specific wing spots. This region includes the candidate gene optomotor-blind (omb), which plays a critical role in patterning the Drosophila wing. The genetic basis of divergent wing display is more complex, with at least two loci on the X chromosome and two loci on autosomes contributing to its evolution. Introgressing the X-linked region affecting wing spot development from D. gunungcola into D. elegans reduced pigmentation in the wing spots but did not affect the wing display, indicating that these are genetically separable traits. Consistent with this observation, broader sampling of wild D. gunungcola populations confirmed the wing spot and wing display are evolving independently: some D. gunungcola males performed wing displays similar to D. elegans despite lacking wing spots. These data suggest that correlated selection pressures rather than physical linkage or pleiotropy are responsible for the coevolution of these morphological and behavioral traits. They also suggest that the change in morphology evolved prior to the change in behavior. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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    03/06/20 | A large genomic insertion containing a duplicated follistatin gene is linked to the pea aphid male wing dimorphism.
    Li B, Bickel RD, Parker BJ, Saleh Ziabari O, Liu F, Vellichirammal NN, Simon J, Stern DL, Brisson JA
    eLife. 2020 Mar 06;9:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.50608

    Wing dimorphisms have long served as models for examining the ecological and evolutionary tradeoffs associated with alternative phenotypes. Here, we investigated the genetic cause of the pea aphid () male wing dimorphism, wherein males exhibit one of two morphologies that differ in correlated traits that include the presence or absence of wings. We mapped this trait difference to a single genomic region and, using third generation, long-read sequencing, we identified a 120 kb insertion in the wingless allele. This insertion includes a duplicated gene, which is a strong candidate gene in the minimal mapped interval to cause the dimorphism. We found that both alleles were present prior to pea aphid biotype lineage diversification, we estimated that the insertion occurred millions of years ago, and we propose that both alleles have been maintained in the species, likely due to balancing selection.

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    03/01/20 | Characterization of the Genetic Architecture Underlying Eye Size Variation Within Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans.
    Gaspar P, Arif S, Sumner-Rooney L, Kittelmann M, Bodey AJ, Stern DL, Nunes MD, McGregor AP
    Genes|Genomes|Genetics. 2020 Mar 01;10(3):1005-18. doi: 10.1534/g3.119.400877
    10/15/19 | The yellow gene influences Drosophila male mating success through sex comb melanization.
    Massey JH, Chung D, Siwanowicz I, Stern DL, Wittkopp PJ
    eLife. 2019 Oct 15;8:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.49388

    males perform a series of courtship behaviors that, when successful, result in copulation with a female. For over a century, mutations in the gene, named for its effects on pigmentation, have been known to reduce male mating success. Prior work has suggested that influences mating behavior through effects on wing extension, song, and/or courtship vigor. Here, we rule out these explanations, as well as effects on the nervous system more generally, and find instead that the effects of on male mating success are mediated by its effects on pigmentation of male-specific leg structures called sex combs. Loss of expression in these modified bristles reduces their melanization, which changes their structure and causes difficulty grasping females prior to copulation. These data illustrate why the mechanical properties of anatomy, not just neural circuitry, must be considered to fully understand the development and evolution of behavior.

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    07/08/19 | Changes throughout a genetic network mask the contribution of Hox gene evolution.
    Liu Y, Ramos-Womack M, Han C, Reilly P, Brackett KL, Rogers W, Williams TM, Andolfatto P, Stern DL, Rebeiz M
    Current Biology. 2019 Jul 08;29(13):2157-66. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.05.074

    Hox genes pattern the anterior-posterior axis of animals and are posited to drive animal body plan evolution, yet their precise role in evolution has been difficult to determine. Here, we identified evolutionary modifications in the Hox gene Abd-Bthat dramatically altered its expression along the body plan of Drosophila santomeaAbd-B is required for pigmentation in Drosophila yakuba, the sister species of D. santomea, and changes to Abd-B expression would be predicted to make large contributions to the loss of body pigmentation in D. santomea. However, manipulating Abd-B expression in current-day D. santomea does not affect pigmentation. We attribute this epistatic interaction to four other genes within the D. santomea pigmentation network, three of which have evolved expression patterns that do not respond to Abd-B. Our results demonstrate how body plans may evolve through small evolutionary steps distributed throughout Hox-regulated networks. Polygenicity and epistasis may hinder efforts to identify genes and mechanisms underlying macroevolutionary traits.

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    05/28/19 | Evolution of Mechanisms that Control Mating in Drosophila Males.
    Ahmed OM, Avila-Herrera A, Tun KM, Serpa PH, Peng J, Parthasarathy S, Knapp J, Stern DL, Davis GW, Pollard KS, Shah NM
    Cell Reports. 2019 May 28;27(9):2527-2536.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.04.104

    Genetically wired neural mechanisms inhibit mating between species because even naive animals rarely mate with other species. These mechanisms can evolve through changes in expression or function of key genes in sensory pathways or central circuits. Gr32a is a gustatory chemoreceptor that, in D. melanogaster, is essential to inhibit interspecies courtship and sense quinine. Similar to D. melanogaster, we find that D. simulans Gr32a is expressed in foreleg tarsi, sensorimotor appendages that inhibit interspecies courtship, and it is required to sense quinine. Nevertheless, Gr32a is not required to inhibit interspecies mating by D. simulans males. However, and similar to its function in D. melanogaster, Ppk25, a member of the Pickpocket family, promotes conspecific courtship in D. simulans. Together, we have identified distinct evolutionary mechanisms underlying chemosensory control of taste and courtship in closely related Drosophila species.

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    05/01/19 | Pleiotropic effects of ebony and tan on pigmentation and cuticular hydrocarbon composition in Drosophila melanogaster.
    Massey JH, Akiyama N, Bien T, Dreisewerd K, Wittkopp PJ, Yew JY, Takahashi A
    Frontiers in Physiology. 05/2019;10:518. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00518

    Pleiotropic genes are genes that affect more than one trait. For example, many genes required for pigmentation in the fruit fly also affect traits such as circadian rhythms, vision, and mating behavior. Here, we present evidence that two pigmentation genes, and , which encode enzymes catalyzing reciprocal reactions in the melanin biosynthesis pathway, also affect cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) composition in females. More specifically, we report that loss-of-function mutants have a CHC profile that is biased toward long (>25C) chain CHCs, whereas loss-of-function mutants have a CHC profile that is biased toward short (<25C) chain CHCs. Moreover, pharmacological inhibition of dopamine synthesis, a key step in the melanin synthesis pathway, reversed the changes in CHC composition seen in mutants, making the CHC profiles similar to those seen in mutants. These observations suggest that genetic variation affecting and/or activity might cause correlated changes in pigmentation and CHC composition in natural populations. We tested this possibility using the Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP) and found that CHC composition covaried with pigmentation as well as levels of and expression in newly eclosed adults in a manner consistent with the and mutant phenotypes. These data suggest that the pleiotropic effects of and might contribute to covariation of pigmentation and CHC profiles in .

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    03/08/19 | Neural evolution of context-dependent fly song.
    Ding Y, Lillvis JL, Cande J, Berman GJ, Arthur BJ, Long X, Xu M, Dickson BJ, Stern DL
    Current Biology : CB. 2019 Mar 08;29(7):1089-99. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.02.019

    It is unclear where in the nervous system evolutionary changes tend to occur. To localize the source of neural evolution that has generated divergent behaviors, we developed a new approach to label and functionally manipulate homologous neurons across Drosophila species. We examined homologous descending neurons that drive courtship song in two species that sing divergent song types and localized relevant evolutionary changes in circuit function downstream of the intrinsic physiology of these descending neurons. This evolutionary change causes different species to produce divergent motor patterns in similar social contexts. Artificial stimulation of these descending neurons drives multiple song types, suggesting that multifunctional properties of song circuits may facilitate rapid evolution of song types.

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