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Evol Dev. 2004 Sep-Oct;6(5):325-35.

Dynamics and function of intron sequences of the wingless gene during the evolution of the Drosophila genus.

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1
Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular (IBMC), Universidade do Porto, Rua do Campo Alegre 823, Porto 4150-180, Portugal.

Abstract

To understand the function and evolution of genes with complex patterns of expression, such as the Drosophila wingless gene, it is essential to know how their transcription is regulated. However, extracting the relevant regulatory information from a genome is still a complex task. We used a combination of comparative genomics and functional approaches to identify putative regulatory sequences in two introns (1 and 3) of the wingless gene and to infer their evolution. Comparison of the sequences obtained from several Drosophila species revealed colinear and well-conserved sequence blocks in both introns. Drosophila willistoni showed a rate of evolution, in both introns, faster than expected from its phylogenetic position. Intron 3 appeared to be composed of two separate modules, one of them lost in the willistoni group. We tested whether sequence conservation in noncoding regions is a reliable indicator of regulatory function and, if this function is conserved, by analyzing D. melanogaster transgenic reporter lines harboring intron 3 sequences from D. melanogaster (Sophophora subgenus) and the species from the Drosophila subgenus presenting the most divergent sequence, D. americana. The analysis indicated that intron 3 contains pupal enhancers conserved during the evolution of the genus, despite the fact that only 30% of the D. melanogaster intron 3 sequences lie in conserved blocks. Additional analysis of D. melanogaster transgenic reporter lines harboring intron 3 sequences from D. willistoni revealed the absence of an abdomen-specific expression pattern, probably due to the above-mentioned loss of a regulatory module in this species.

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