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Curr Biol. 2019 Jul 8;29(13):2157-2166.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.05.074. Epub 2019 Jun 27.

Changes throughout a Genetic Network Mask the Contribution of Hox Gene Evolution.

Author information

1
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.
2
Department of Ecology Evolution and Behavior, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
3
Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
4
Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
5
Department of Biology, University of Dayton, 300 College Park, Dayton, OH 45469, USA.
6
Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, Sherman Fairchild Center for Life Sciences, 1212 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027, USA.
7
Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 19700 Helix Drive, Ashburn, VA 20147, USA. Electronic address: sternd@janelia.hhmi.org.
8
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA. Electronic address: rebeiz@pitt.edu.

Abstract

Hox genes pattern the anterior-posterior axis of animals and are posited to drive animal body plan evolution, yet their precise role in evolution has been difficult to determine. Here, we identified evolutionary modifications in the Hox gene Abd-B that dramatically altered its expression along the body plan of Drosophila santomea. Abd-B is required for pigmentation in Drosophila yakuba, the sister species of D. santomea, and changes to Abd-B expression would be predicted to make large contributions to the loss of body pigmentation in D. santomea. However, manipulating Abd-B expression in current-day D. santomea does not affect pigmentation. We attribute this epistatic interaction to four other genes within the D. santomea pigmentation network, three of which have evolved expression patterns that do not respond to Abd-B. Our results demonstrate how body plans may evolve through small evolutionary steps distributed throughout Hox-regulated networks. Polygenicity and epistasis may hinder efforts to identify genes and mechanisms underlying macroevolutionary traits.

PMID:
31257142
PMCID:
PMC6624651
[Available on 2020-07-08]
DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2019.05.074

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