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Title: Evolution of Phototransduction Genes in Lepidoptera
Abstract Vision is underpinned by phototransduction, a signaling cascade that converts light energy into an electrical signal. Among insects, phototransduction is best understood in Drosophila melanogaster. Comparison of D. melanogaster against three insect species found several phototransduction gene gains and losses, however, lepidopterans were not examined. Diurnal butterflies and nocturnal moths occupy different light environments and have distinct eye morphologies, which might impact the expression of their phototransduction genes. Here we investigated: 1) how phototransduction genes vary in gene gain or loss between D. melanogaster and Lepidoptera, and 2) variations in phototransduction genes between moths and butterflies. To test our prediction of phototransduction differences due to distinct visual ecologies, we used insect reference genomes, phylogenetics, and moth and butterfly head RNA-Seq and transcriptome data. As expected, most phototransduction genes were conserved between D. melanogaster and Lepidoptera, with some exceptions. Notably, we found two lepidopteran opsins lacking a D. melanogaster ortholog. Using antibodies we found that one of these opsins, a candidate retinochrome, which we refer to as unclassified opsin (UnRh), is expressed in the crystalline cone cells and the pigment cells of the butterfly, Heliconius melpomene. Our results also show that butterflies express similar amounts of trp and trpl channel mRNAs, whereas moths express ∼50× less trp, a potential adaptation to darkness. Our findings suggest that while many single-copy D. melanogaster phototransduction genes are conserved in lepidopterans, phototransduction gene expression differences exist between moths and butterflies that may be linked to their visual light environment.  more » « less
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Journal Name:
Genome Biology and Evolution
Page Range / eLocation ID:
2107 to 2124
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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