Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Evolutionary Biology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Research article

Evolutionary analysis of the kinesin light chain genes in the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti: gene duplication as a source for novel early zygotic genes

James K Biedler and Zhijian Tu*

Author Affiliations

Department of Biochemistry, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Fralin Biotech Center, Blacksburg, VA, 24061, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:206  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-206

Published: 8 July 2010



The maternal zygotic transition marks the time at which transcription from the zygotic genome is initiated and a subset of maternal RNAs are progressively degraded in the developing embryo. A number of early zygotic genes have been identified in Drosophila melanogaster and comparisons to sequenced mosquito genomes suggest that some of these early zygotic genes such as bottleneck are fast-evolving or subject to turnover in dipteran insects. One objective of this study is to identify early zygotic genes from the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti to study their evolution. We are also interested in obtaining early zygotic promoters that will direct transgene expression in the early embryo as part of a Medea gene drive system.


Two novel early zygotic kinesin light chain genes we call AaKLC2.1 and AaKLC2.2 were identified by transcriptome sequencing of Aedes aegypti embryos at various time points. These two genes have 98% nucleotide and amino acid identity in their coding regions and show transcription confined to the early zygotic stage according to gene-specific RT-PCR analysis. These AaKLC2 genes have a paralogous gene (AaKLC1) in Ae. aegypti. Phylogenetic inference shows that an ortholog to the AaKLC2 genes is only found in the sequenced genome of Culex quinquefasciatus. In contrast, AaKLC1 gene orthologs are found in all three sequenced mosquito species including Anopheles gambiae. There is only one KLC gene in D. melanogaster and other sequenced holometabolous insects that appears to be similar to AaKLC1. Unlike AaKLC2, AaKLC1 is expressed in all life stages and tissues tested, which is consistent with the expression pattern of the An. gambiae and D. melanogaster KLC genes. Phylogenetic inference also suggests that AaKLC2 genes and their likely C. quinquefasciatus ortholog are fast-evolving genes relative to the highly conserved AaKLC1-like paralogs. Embryonic injection of a luciferase reporter under the control of a 1 kb fragment upstream of the AaKLC2.1 start codon shows promoter activity at least as early as 3 hours in the developing Ae. aegypti embryo. The AaKLC2.1 promoter activity reached ~1600 fold over the negative control at 5 hr after egg deposition.


Transcriptome profiling by use of high throughput sequencing technologies has proven to be a valuable method for the identification and discovery of early and transient zygotic genes. The evolutionary investigation of the KLC gene family reveals that duplication is a source for the evolution of new genes that play a role in the dynamic process of early embryonic development. AaKLC2.1 may provide a promoter for early zygotic-specific transgene expression, which is a key component of the Medea gene drive system.