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FEBS J. 2006 Feb;273(3):468-80.

The hemoglobin genes of Drosophila.

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Institute of Zoology, University of Mainz, Germany.


We recently reported the unprecedented occurrence of a hemoglobin gene (glob1) in the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster. Here we investigate the structure and evolution of the glob1 gene in other Drosophila species. We cloned and sequenced glob1 genes and cDNA from D. pseudoobscura and D. virilis, and identified the glob1 gene sequences of D. simulans, D. yakuba, D. erecta, D. ananassae, D. mojavensis and D. grimshawi in the databases. Gene structure (introns in helix positions D7.0 and G7.0), gene synteny and sequence of glob1 are highly conserved, with high ds/dn ratios indicating strong purifying selection. The data suggest an important role of the glob1 protein in Drosophila, which may be the control of oxygen flow from the tracheal system. Furthermore, we identified two additional globin genes (glob2 and glob3) in the Drosophilidae. Although the sequences are highly derived, the amino acids required for heme- and oxygen-binding are conserved. In contrast to other known insect globin, the glob2 and glob3 genes harbour both globin-typical introns at positions B12.2 and G7.0. Both genes are conserved in various drosophilid species, but only expression of glob2 could be demonstrated by western blotting and RT-PCR. Phylogenetic analyses show that the clade leading to glob2 and glob3, which are sistergroups, diverged first in the evolution of dipteran globins. glob1 is closely related to the intracellular hemoglobin of the botfly Gasterophilus intestinalis, and the extracellular hemoglobins from the chironomid midges derive from this clade.

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