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Elife. 2018 Oct 16;7. pii: e36495. doi: 10.7554/eLife.36495.

Firefly genomes illuminate parallel origins of bioluminescence in beetles.

Author information

1
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, United States.
2
Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, United States.
3
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, United States.
4
Department of Biology, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, United States.
5
Department of Biology, University of Rochester, Rochester, United States.
6
Department of Environmental Biology, Chubu University, Kasugai, Japan.
7
Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan.
8
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, United States.
9
Department of Biology, Brigham Young University, Provo, United States.
10
Department of Genetics, University of Georgia, Athens, United States.
11
Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution, Arizona State University, Tempe, United States.
12
Center of Agronomic Research, National Institute of Agricultural Technology, Córdoba, Argentina.
13
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Wallingford, United Kingdom.
14
Department of Plant Sciences, University of California Davis, Davis, United States.
15
Department of Plant Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, United States.
16
Department of Microbiology Immunology and Biochemistry, University of Tennessee HSC, Memphis, United States.
17
Department of Biology, Tufts University, Medford, United States.
18
NIBB Core Research Facilities, National Institute for Basic Biology, Okazaki, Japan.
#
Contributed equally

Abstract

Fireflies and their luminous courtships have inspired centuries of scientific study. Today firefly luciferase is widely used in biotechnology, but the evolutionary origin of bioluminescence within beetles remains unclear. To shed light on this long-standing question, we sequenced the genomes of two firefly species that diverged over 100 million-years-ago: the North American Photinus pyralis and Japanese Aquatica lateralis. To compare bioluminescent origins, we also sequenced the genome of a related click beetle, the Caribbean Ignelater luminosus, with bioluminescent biochemistry near-identical to fireflies, but anatomically unique light organs, suggesting the intriguing hypothesis of parallel gains of bioluminescence. Our analyses support independent gains of bioluminescence in fireflies and click beetles, and provide new insights into the genes, chemical defenses, and symbionts that evolved alongside their luminous lifestyle.

KEYWORDS:

Aquatica lateralis; Ignelater luminosus; Photinus pyralis; bioluminescence; firefly; genetics; genomics; luciferase

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