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Genetics. 2007 Sep;177(1):417-26. Epub 2007 Jul 1.

Synteny and chromosome evolution in the lepidoptera: evidence from mapping in Heliconius melpomene.

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Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, United Kingdom.


The extent of conservation of synteny and gene order in the Lepidoptera has been investigated previously only by comparing a small subset of linkage groups between the moth Bombyx mori and the butterfly Heliconius melpomene. Here we report the mapping of 64 additional conserved genes in H. melpomene, which contributed 47 markers to a comparative framework of 72 orthologous loci spanning all 21 H. melpomene chromosomes and 27 of the 28 B. mori chromosomes. Comparison of the maps revealed conserved synteny across all chromosomes for the 72 loci, as well as evidence for six cases of chromosome fusion in the Heliconius lineage that contributed to the derived 21-chromosome karyotype. Comparisons of gene order on these fused chromosomes revealed two instances of colinearity between H. melpomene and B. mori, but also one instance of likely chromosomal rearrangement. B. mori is the first lepidopteran species to have its genome sequenced, and the finding that there is conserved synteny and gene order among Lepidoptera indicates that the genomic tools developed in B. mori will be broadly useful in other species.

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