Project description:The underlying genetic basis of adaptive phenotypic changes are generally poorly understood, yet a growing number of case studies are beginning to shed light on important questions about the molecular nature and pleiotropy of such changes. We use Drosophila sechellia, a dietary specialist fruit fly that has evolved to specialize on a single toxic host plant: Morinda citrifolia, as a model for adaptive phenotypic change and seek to determine the genetic basis of traits associated with host specialization in this species. The fruit of M. citrifolia is toxic to other Drosophilids, primarily due to high levels of the defense chemical octanoic acid (OA) yet D. sechellia has evolved resistance to OA. Our prior work identified three Osiris family genes that reside in a fine-mapped QTL for OA resistance: Osiris 6 (Osi6), Osi7, and Osi8, that can alter OA resistance in adult D. melanogaster when knocked-down with RNA interference (RNAi) suggesting they may contribute to OA resistance in D. sechellia. Genetic mapping identified overlapping genomic regions involved in larval and adult OA resistance in D. sechellia, yet it remains unknown whether Osiris genes contribute to resistance in both life stages. Furthermore, because multiple genomic regions contribute to OA resistance, we aim to identify other gene(s) involved in this adaptation. Here, we identify candidate larval OA resistance genes using RNA-sequencing to measure genome-wide differential gene expression in D. sechellia larvae after exposure to OA and functionally test identified genes for a role in OA resistance. We then test the Osiris genes previously shown to alter adult OA resistance for effects on OA resistance in larvae. While the genes identified by RNA-seq we tested in larvae thus far do not influence OA resistance, we found that Osi8 knockdown decreased OA resistance in D. melanogaster larvae. These data suggest that evolved changes in Osi8 could impact OA resistance in multiple life stages while Osi6 and Osi7 may only impact adult resistance to OA. Overall design: Differential gene expression analysis of D. sechellia larvae exposed to control food and food containing 0.2% octanoic acid using RNA-sequencing.
Project description:Although a great deal has been learned regarding the genetic changes that give rise to adaptation in bacteria and yeast, an understanding of how new complex traits arise in multicellular organisms is far less complete. Many phytophagous insect species are ecological specialists that have adapted to utilize a single host plant. Drosophila sechellia is a specialist that utilizes the ripe fruit of Morinda citrifolia, which is toxic to its sibling species, D. simulans. Here we apply multiplexed shotgun genotyping and QTL analysis to examine the genetic basis of resistance to M. citrifolia fruit toxin in interspecific hybrids. We identify a locus of large effect on the third chromosome (QTL-IIIsima) in the D. simulans backcross that was not detected in previous analyses. We also identify a highly significant QTL of large effect on the X chromosome, QTL-Xsim. Additional smaller-effect loci were also identified in the D. simulans and D. sechellia backcrosses. We did not detect significant epistasis between loci. Instead, our analysis reveals large and smaller-effect loci that contribute to M. citrifolia resistance additively. The additive effect of each locus suggests that partial resistance to lower levels of M. citrifolia toxin could be passed through introgression from D. sechellia to D. simulans in nature. The identification of the major effect loci, QTL-IIIsima and QTL-Xsim, is an important step toward identifying the molecular basis of adaptation in a multicellular organism.
Project description:Many insects feed on only one or a few types of host. These host specialists often evolve a preference for chemical cues emanating from their host and develop mechanisms for circumventing their host's defenses. Adaptations like these are central to evolutionary biology, yet our understanding of their genetics remains incomplete. Drosophila sechellia, an emerging model for the genetics of host specialization, is an island endemic that has adapted to chemical toxins present in the fruit of its host plant, Morinda citrifolia. Its sibling species, D. simulans, and many other Drosophila species do not tolerate these toxins and avoid the fruit. Earlier work found a region with a strong effect on tolerance to the major toxin, octanoic acid, on chromosome arm 3R. Using a novel assay, we narrowed this region to a small span near the centromere containing 18 genes, including three odorant binding proteins. It has been hypothesized that the evolution of host specialization is facilitated by genetic linkage between alleles contributing to host preference and alleles contributing to host usage, such as tolerance to secondary compounds. We tested this hypothesis by measuring the effect of this tolerance locus on host preference behavior. Our data were inconsistent with the linkage hypothesis, as flies bearing this tolerance region showed no increase in preference for media containing M. citrifolia toxins, which D. sechellia prefers. Thus, in contrast to some models for host preference, preference and tolerance are not tightly linked at this locus nor is increased tolerance per se sufficient to change preference. Our data are consistent with the previously proposed model that the evolution of D. sechellia as a M. citrifolia specialist occurred through a stepwise loss of aversion and gain of tolerance to M. citrifolia's toxins.
Project description:Drosophila sechellia is a dietary specialist fruit fly that evolved from a generalist ancestor to specialize on the toxic fruit of Morinda citrifolia This species pair has been the subject of numerous studies where the goal has largely been to determine the genetic basis of adaptations associated with host specialization. Because one of the most striking features of M. citrifolia fruit is the production of toxic volatile compounds that kill insects, most genomic studies in D. sechellia to date have focused on gene expression responses to the toxic compounds in its food. In this study, we aim to identify new genes important for host specialization by profiling gene expression response to 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA). Recent work found it to be highly abundant in M. citrifolia, critical for reproductive success of D. sechellia, and supplementation of diet with the downstream pathway product dopamine can influence toxin resistance phenotypes in related species. Here we used a combination of functional genetics and genomics techniques to identify new genes that are important for D. sechellia ecological adaptation to this new niche. We show that L-DOPA exposure can affect toxin resistance phenotypes, identify genes with plastic responses to L-DOPA exposure, and functionally test an identified candidate gene. We found that knock-down of Esterase 6 (Est6) in a heterologous species alters toxin resistance suggesting Est6 may play an important role in D. sechellia host specialization.
Project description:Changes in host specialization contribute to the diversification of phytophagous insects. When shifting to a new host, insects evolve new physiological, morphological, and behavioral adaptations. Our understanding of the genetic changes responsible for these adaptations is limited. For instance, we do not know how often host shifts involve gain-of-function vs. loss-of-function alleles. Recent work suggests that some genes involved in odor recognition are lost in specialists. Here we show that genes involved in detoxification and metabolism, as well as those affecting olfaction, have reduced gene expression in Drosophila sechellia-a specialist on the fruit of Morinda citrifolia. We screened for genes that differ in expression between D. sechellia and its generalist sister species, D. simulans. We also screened for genes that are differentially expressed in D. sechellia when these flies chose their preferred host vs. when they were forced onto other food. D. sechellia increases expression of genes involved with oogenesis and fatty acid metabolism when on its host. The majority of differentially expressed genes, however, appear downregulated in D. sechellia. For several functionally related genes, this decrease in expression is associated with apparent loss-of-function alleles. For example, the D. sechellia allele of Odorant binding protein 56e (Obp56e) harbors a premature stop codon. We show that knockdown of Obp56e activity significantly reduces the avoidance response of D. melanogaster toward M. citrifolia. We argue that apparent loss-of-function alleles like Obp56e potentially contributed to the initial adaptation of D. sechellia to its host. Our results suggest that a subset of genes reduce or lose function as a consequence of host specialization, which may explain why, in general, specialist insects tend to shift to chemically similar hosts.
Project description:Drosophila sechellia relies exclusively on the fruits of Morinda citrifolia, which are toxic to most insects, including its sibling species Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans. Although several odorant binding protein (Obp) genes and olfactory receptor (Or) genes have been suggested to be associated with the D. sechellia host shift, a broad view of how chemosensory genes have contributed to this shift is still lacking. We therefore studied the transcriptomes of antennae, the main organ responsible for detecting food resource and oviposition, of D. sechellia and its two sibling species. We wanted to know whether gene expression, particularly chemosensory genes, has diverged between D. sechellia and its two sibling species. Using a very stringent definition of differential gene expression, we found a higher percentage of chemosensory genes differentially expressed in the D. sechellia lineage (7.8%) than in the D. simulans lineage (5.4%); for upregulated chemosensory genes, the percentages were 8.8% in D. sechellia and 5.2% in D. simulans. Interestingly, Obp50a exhibited the highest upregulation, an approximately 100-fold increase, and Or85c--previously reported to be a larva-specific gene--showed approximately 20-fold upregulation in D. sechellia. Furthermore, Ir84a (ionotropic receptor 84a), which has been proposed to be associated with male courtship behavior, was significantly upregulated in D. sechellia. We also found expression divergence in most of the chemosensory gene families between D. sechellia and the two sibling species. Our observations suggest that the host shift of D. sechellia was associated with the enrichment of differentially expressed, particularly upregulated, chemosensory genes.
Project description:Our understanding of the genetic basis of host specialization in insects is limited to basic information on the number and location of genetic factors underlying changes in conspicuous phenotypes. We know nothing about general patterns of molecular evolution that may accompany host specialization but are not traceable to a single prominent phenotypic change. Here, I describe changes in the entire repertoire of 136 olfactory receptor (Or) and gustatory receptor (Gr) genes of the recently specialized vinegar fly Drosophila sechellia. I find that D. sechellia is losing Or and Gr genes nearly 10 times faster than its generalist sibling Drosophila simulans. Moreover, those D. sechellia receptors that remain intact have fixed amino acid replacement mutations at a higher rate relative to silent mutations than have their D. simulans orthologs. Comparison of these patterns with those observed in a random sample of genes indicates that the changes at Or and Gr loci are likely to reflect positive selection and/or relaxed constraint associated with the altered ecological niche of this fly.
Project description:Despite its morphological similarity to the other species in the Drosophila melanogaster species complex, D. sechellia has evolved distinct physiological and behavioral adaptations to its host plant Morinda citrifolia, commonly known as Tahitian Noni. The odor of the ripe fruit of M. citrifolia originates from hexanoic and octanoic acid. D. sechellia is attracted to these two fatty acids, whereas the other species in the complex are repelled. Here, using interspecies hybrids between D. melanogaster deficiency mutants and D. sechellia, we showed that the Odorant-binding protein 57e (Obp57e) gene is involved in the behavioral difference between the species. D. melanogaster knock-out flies for Obp57e and Obp57d showed altered behavioral responses to hexanoic acid and octanoic acid. Furthermore, the introduction of Obp57d and Obp57e from D. simulans and D. sechellia shifted the oviposition site preference of D. melanogaster Obp57d/e(KO) flies to that of the original species, confirming the contribution of these genes to D. sechellia's specialization to M. citrifolia. Our finding of the genes involved in host-plant determination may lead to further understanding of mechanisms underlying taste perception, evolution of plant-herbivore interactions, and speciation.
Project description:Drosophila sechellia is a species of fruit fly endemic to the Seychelles islands. Unlike its generalist sister species, D. sechellia has evolved to be a specialist on the host plant Morinda citrifolia. This specialization is interesting because the plant's fruit contains secondary defence compounds, primarily octanoic acid (OA), that are lethal to most other Drosophilids. Although ecological and behavioural adaptations to this toxic fruit are known, the genetic basis for evolutionary changes in OA resistance is not. Prior work showed that a genomic region on chromosome 3R containing 18 genes has the greatest contribution to differences in OA resistance between D. sechellia and D. simulans. To determine which gene(s) in this region might be involved in the evolutionary change in OA resistance, we knocked down expression of each gene in this region in D. melanogaster with RNA interference (RNAi) (i) ubiquitously throughout development, (ii) during only the adult stage and (iii) within specific tissues. We identified three neighbouring genes in the Osiris family, Osiris 6 (Osi6), Osi7 and Osi8, that led to decreased OA resistance when ubiquitously knocked down. Tissue-specific RNAi, however, showed that decreasing expression of Osi6 and Osi7 specifically in the fat body and/or salivary glands increased OA resistance. Gene expression analyses of Osi6 and Osi7 revealed that while standing levels of expression are higher in D. sechellia, Osi6 expression is significantly downregulated in salivary glands in response to OA exposure, suggesting that evolved tissue-specific environmental plasticity of Osi6 expression may be responsible for OA resistance in D. sechellia.
Project description:The dietary specialist fruit fly Drosophila sechellia evolved to feed primarily on the toxic fruit of Morinda citrifolia. Seeking the basis of adaptations to the unique chemistry of its host plant, we profiled genome-wide gene expression response to L-DOPA because it is highly abundant in M. citrifolia, critical for reproductive success of D. sechellia, and may influence toxin resistance in this species. Here we used a combination of functional genetics and genomics to identify a new gene, Esterase 6 (Est6) that is important for D. sechellia ecological adaptation to this new niche. Overall design: Differential gene expression analysis of D. sechellia, D. simulans, and D. melanogaster flies exposed to control food and food supplemented with L-DOPA using RNA-sequencing.