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Proc Biol Sci. 2013 Mar 6;280(1758):20122968. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2968. Print 2013 May 7.

Duplication and concerted evolution in a master sex determiner under balancing selection.

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Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Lausanne 1015, Switzerland.


The transformer (tra) gene is a key regulator in the signalling hierarchy controlling all aspects of somatic sexual differentiation in Drosophila and other insects. Here, we show that six of the seven sequenced ants have two copies of tra. Surprisingly, the two paralogues are always more similar within species than among species. Comparative sequence analyses indicate that this pattern is owing to the ongoing concerted evolution after an ancestral duplication rather than independent duplications in each of the six species. In particular, there was strong support for inter-locus recombination between the paralogues of the ant Atta cephalotes. In the five species where the location of paralogues is known, they are adjacent to each other in four cases and separated by only few genes in the fifth case. Because there have been extensive genomic rearrangements in these lineages, this suggests selection acting to conserve their synteny. In three species, we also find a signature of positive selection in one of the paralogues. In three bee species where information is available, the tra gene is also duplicated, the copies are adjacent and in at least one species there was recombination between paralogues. These results suggest that concerted evolution plays an adaptive role in the evolution of this gene family.

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