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Heredity (Edinb). 2013 Jun;110(6):538-47. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2012.122. Epub 2013 Feb 13.

Comparative genomics of chemosensory protein genes reveals rapid evolution and positive selection in ant-specific duplicates.

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Department of Biology and Biocenter Oulu, University of Oulu, Finland.


Gene duplications can have a major role in adaptation, and gene families underlying chemosensation are particularly interesting due to their essential role in chemical recognition of mates, predators and food resources. Social insects add yet another dimension to the study of chemosensory genomics, as the key components of their social life rely on chemical communication. Still, chemosensory gene families are little studied in social insects. Here we annotated chemosensory protein (CSP) genes from seven ant genomes and studied their evolution. The number of functional CSP genes ranges from 11 to 21 depending on species, and the estimated rates of gene birth and death indicate high turnover of genes. Ant CSP genes include seven conservative orthologous groups present in all the ants, and a group of genes that has expanded independently in different ant lineages. Interestingly, the expanded group of genes has a differing mode of evolution from the orthologous groups. The expanded group shows rapid evolution as indicated by a high dN/dS (nonsynonymous to synonymous changes) ratio, several sites under positive selection and many pseudogenes, whereas the genes in the seven orthologous groups evolve slowly under purifying selection and include only one pseudogene. These results show that adaptive changes have played a role in ant CSP evolution. The expanded group of ant-specific genes is phylogenetically close to a conservative orthologous group CSP7, which includes genes known to be involved in ant nestmate recognition, raising an interesting possibility that the expanded CSPs function in ant chemical communication.

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