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  1. Malik, Harmit (Ed.)
    Abstracts Germ line specification is essential in sexually reproducing organisms. Despite their critical role, the evolutionary history of the genes that specify animal germ cells is heterogeneous and dynamic. In many insects, the gene oskar is required for the specification of the germ line. However, the germ line role of oskar is thought to be a derived role resulting from co-option from an ancestral somatic role. To address how evolutionary changes in protein sequence could have led to changes in the function of Oskar protein that enabled it to regulate germ line specification, we searched for oskar orthologs in 1,565 publicly available insect genomic and transcriptomic data sets. The earliest-diverging lineage in which we identified an oskar ortholog was the order Zygentoma (silverfish and firebrats), suggesting that oskar originated before the origin of winged insects. We noted some order-specific trends in oskar sequence evolution, including whole gene duplications, clade-specific losses, and rapid divergence. An alignment of all known 379 Oskar sequences revealed new highly conserved residues as candidates that promote dimerization of the LOTUS domain. Moreover, we identified regions of the OSK domain with conserved predicted RNA binding potential. Furthermore, we show that despite a low overall amino acid conservation,more »the LOTUS domain shows higher conservation of predicted secondary structure than the OSK domain. Finally, we suggest new key amino acids in the LOTUS domain that may be involved in the previously reported Oskar−Vasa physical interaction that is required for its germ line role.« less
  2. Malik, Harmit S. (Ed.)
    Comparative genomics has enabled the identification of genes that potentially evolved de novo from non-coding sequences. Many such genes are expressed in male reproductive tissues, but their functions remain poorly understood. To address this, we conducted a functional genetic screen of over 40 putative de novo genes with testis-enriched expression in Drosophila melanogaster and identified one gene, atlas , required for male fertility. Detailed genetic and cytological analyses showed that atlas is required for proper chromatin condensation during the final stages of spermatogenesis. Atlas protein is expressed in spermatid nuclei and facilitates the transition from histone- to protamine-based chromatin packaging. Complementary evolutionary analyses revealed the complex evolutionary history of atlas . The protein-coding portion of the gene likely arose at the base of the Drosophila genus on the X chromosome but was unlikely to be essential, as it was then lost in several independent lineages. Within the last ~15 million years, however, the gene moved to an autosome, where it fused with a conserved non-coding RNA and evolved a non-redundant role in male fertility. Altogether, this study provides insight into the integration of novel genes into biological processes, the links between genomic innovation and functional evolution, and the genetic controlmore »of a fundamental developmental process, gametogenesis.« less