Project description:Body plan development in multi-cellular organisms is largely determined by homeotic genes. Expression of homeotic genes, in turn, is partially regulated by insulator binding proteins (IBPs). While only a few enhancer blocking IBPs have been identified in vertebrates, the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster harbors at least twelve different enhancer blocking IBPs. We screened recently compiled insect transcriptomes from the 1KITE project and genomic and transcriptomic data from public databases, aiming to trace the origin of IBPs in insects and other arthropods.Our study shows that the last common ancestor of insects (Hexapoda) already possessed a substantial number of IBPs. Specifically, of the known twelve insect IBPs, at least three (i.e., CP190, Su(Hw), and CTCF) already existed prior to the evolution of insects. Furthermore we found GAF orthologs in early branching insect orders, including Zygentoma (silverfish and firebrats) and Diplura (two-pronged bristletails). Mod(mdg4) is most likely a derived feature of Neoptera, while Pita is likely an evolutionary novelty of holometabolous insects. Zw5 appears to be restricted to schizophoran flies, whereas BEAF-32, ZIPIC and the Elba complex, are probably unique to the genus Drosophila. Selection models indicate that insect IBPs evolved under neutral or purifying selection.Our results suggest that a substantial number of IBPs either pre-date the evolution of insects or evolved early during insect evolution. This suggests an evolutionary history of insulator binding proteins in insects different to that previously thought. Moreover, our study demonstrates the versatility of the 1KITE transcriptomic data for comparative analyses in insects and other arthropods.
Project description:RNA interference (RNAi) refers to the set of molecular processes found in eukaryotic organisms in which small RNA molecules mediate the silencing or down-regulation of target genes. In insects, RNAi serves a number of functions, including regulation of endogenous genes, anti-viral defense, and defense against transposable elements. Despite being well studied in model organisms, such as Drosophila, the distribution of core RNAi pathway genes and their evolution in insects is not well understood. Here we present the most comprehensive overview of the distribution and diversity of core RNAi pathway genes across 100 insect species, encompassing all currently recognized insect orders. We inferred the phylogenetic origin of insect-specific RNAi pathway genes and also identified several hitherto unrecorded gene expansions using whole-body transcriptome data from the international 1KITE (1000 Insect Transcriptome Evolution) project as well as other resources such as i5K (5000 Insect Genome Project). Specifically, we traced the origin of the double stranded RNA binding protein R2D2 to the last common ancestor of winged insects (Pterygota), the loss of Sid-1/Tag-130 orthologs in Antliophora (fleas, flies and relatives, and scorpionflies in a broad sense), and confirm previous evidence for the splitting of the Argonaute proteins Aubergine and Piwi in Brachyceran flies (Diptera, Brachycera). Our study offers new reference points for future experimental research on RNAi-related pathway genes in insects.