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PLoS One. 2013 May 16;8(5):e63747. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063747. Print 2013.

The Drosophila melanogaster methuselah gene: a novel gene with ancient functions.

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Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular (IBMC), Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal.


The Drosophila melanogaster G protein-coupled receptor gene, methuselah (mth), has been described as a novel gene that is less than 10 million years old. Nevertheless, it shows a highly specific expression pattern in embryos, larvae, and adults, and has been implicated in larval development, stress resistance, and in the setting of adult lifespan, among others. Although mth belongs to a gene subfamily with 16 members in D. melanogaster, there is no evidence for functional redundancy in this subfamily. Therefore, it is surprising that a novel gene influences so many traits. Here, we explore the alternative hypothesis that mth is an old gene. Under this hypothesis, in species distantly related to D. melanogaster, there should be a gene with features similar to those of mth. By performing detailed phylogenetic, synteny, protein structure, and gene expression analyses we show that the D. virilis GJ12490 gene is the orthologous of mth in species distantly related to D. melanogaster. We also show that, in D. americana (a species of the virilis group of Drosophila), a common amino acid polymorphism at the GJ12490 orthologous gene is significantly associated with developmental time, size, and lifespan differences. Our results imply that GJ12490 orthologous genes are candidates for developmental time and lifespan differences in Drosophila in general.

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