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Open Access Research article

The gene transformer-2 of Sciara (Diptera, Nematocera) and its effect on Drosophila sexual development

Iker Martín1, María F Ruiz1* and Lucas Sánchez2*

Author Affiliations

1 Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas (C.S.I.C.), Ramiro de Maeztu 9, 28040 Madrid, Spain

2 NEIKER-TEKNALIA, Berreaga 1, 48160-Derio, Vizcaya, Spain

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BMC Developmental Biology 2011, 11:19  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-11-19

Published: 15 March 2011

Abstract

Background

The gene transformer-2, which is involved in sex determination, has been studied in Drosophila, Musca, Ceratitis, Anastrepha and Lucilia. All these members of Diptera belong to the suborder Brachycera. In this work, it is reported the isolation and characterisation of genes transformer-2 of the dipterans Sciara ocellaris and Bradysia coprophila (formerly Sciara coprophila), which belong to the much less extensively analysed Sciaridae Family of the Suborder Nematocera, which is paraphyletic with respect to Suborder Brachycera.

Results

The transformer-2 genes of the studied Sciara species were found to be transcribed in both sexes during development and adult life, in both the soma and germ lines. They produced a single primary transcript, which follows the same alternative splicing in both sexes, giving rise to different mRNAs isoforms. In S. ocellaris the most abundant mRNA isoform encoded a full-length protein of 251 amino acids, while that of B. coprophila encoded a protein of 246 amino acids. Both showed the features of the SR protein family. The less significant mRNA isoforms of both species encoded truncated, presumably non-functional Transformer-2 proteins. The comparison of the functional Sciara Transformer-2 proteins among themselves and those of other insects revealed the greatest degree of conservation in the RRM domain and linker region. In contrast, the RS1 and RS2 domains showed extensive variation with respect to their number of amino acids and their arginine-serine (RS) dipeptide content. The expression of S. ocellaris Transformer-2 protein in Drosophila XX pseudomales lacking the endogenous transformer-2 function caused their partial feminisation.

Conclusions

The transformer-2 genes of both Sciaridae species encode a single protein in both sexes that shares the characteristics of the Transformer-2 proteins of other insects. These proteins showed conserved sex-determination function in Drosophila; i.e., they were able to form a complex with the endogenous Drosophila Transformer protein that controls the female-specific splicing of the Drosophila doublesex pre-mRNA. However, it appears that the complex formed between the Drosophila Transformer protein and the Sciara Transformer-2 protein is less effective at inducing the female-specific splicing of the endogenous Drosophila doublesex pre-mRNA than the DrosophilaTransformer-Transformer2 complex. This suggests the existence of species-specific co-evolution of the Transformer and Transformer-2 proteins.

Keywords:
Sciara; sex determination; transformer-2 gene