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PLoS Genet. 2009 Feb;5(2):e1000366. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000366. Epub 2009 Feb 6.

A gene-based linkage map for Bicyclus anynana butterflies allows for a comprehensive analysis of synteny with the lepidopteran reference genome.

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  • 1Institute of Biology, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands. p.beldade@biology.leidenuniv.nl

Abstract

Lepidopterans (butterflies and moths) are a rich and diverse order of insects, which, despite their economic impact and unusual biological properties, are relatively underrepresented in terms of genomic resources. The genome of the silkworm Bombyx mori has been fully sequenced, but comparative lepidopteran genomics has been hampered by the scarcity of information for other species. This is especially striking for butterflies, even though they have diverse and derived phenotypes (such as color vision and wing color patterns) and are considered prime models for the evolutionary and developmental analysis of ecologically relevant, complex traits. We focus on Bicyclus anynana butterflies, a laboratory system for studying the diversification of novelties and serially repeated traits. With a panel of 12 small families and a biphasic mapping approach, we first assigned 508 expressed genes to segregation groups and then ordered 297 of them within individual linkage groups. We also coarsely mapped seven color pattern loci. This is the richest gene-based map available for any butterfly species and allowed for a broad-coverage analysis of synteny with the lepidopteran reference genome. Based on 462 pairs of mapped orthologous markers in Bi. anynana and Bo. mori, we observed strong conservation of gene assignment to chromosomes, but also evidence for numerous large- and small-scale chromosomal rearrangements. With gene collections growing for a variety of target organisms, the ability to place those genes in their proper genomic context is paramount. Methods to map expressed genes and to compare maps with relevant model systems are crucial to extend genomic-level analysis outside classical model species. Maps with gene-based markers are useful for comparative genomics and to resolve mapped genomic regions to a tractable number of candidate genes, especially if there is synteny with related model species. This is discussed in relation to the identification of the loci contributing to color pattern evolution in butterflies.

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