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Mol Biol Evol. 2001 May;18(5):801-11.

Molecular evolution of the ocnus and janus genes in the Drosophila melanogaster species subgroup.

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Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138-2020, USA.


Genes involved in male fertility are potential targets for sexual selection, and their evolution may play a role in reproductive isolation and speciation. Here we describe a new Drosophila melanogaster gene, ocnus (ocn), that encodes a protein abundant in testes nuclear extracts. RT-PCR indicates that ocn transcription is limited to males and is specific to testes. ocn shares homology with another testis-specific gene, janusB (janB), and is located just distal to janB on chromosome 3. The two genes also share homology with the adjacent janusA (janA) gene, suggesting that multiple duplication events have occurred within this region of the genome. We cloned and sequenced these three genes from species of the D. melanogaster species subgroup. Phylogenetic analysis based on protein-encoding sequences predicts a duplication pattern of janA --> janA janB --> janA janB ocn, with the latter event occurring after the divergence of the D. melanogaster and Drosophila obscura species groups. We found significant heterogeneity in the rates of evolution among the three genes within the D. melanogaster species subgroup as measured by the ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous substitutions, suggesting that diversification of gene function followed each duplication event and that each gene evolved under different selective constraints. All three genes showed faster rates of evolution than genes encoding proteins with metabolic function. These results are consistent with previous studies that have detected an increased rate of evolution in genes with reproductive function.

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