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Open Access Research article

Divergent evolution and molecular adaptation in the Drosophila odorant-binding protein family: inferences from sequence variation at the OS-E and OS-F genes

Alejandro Sánchez-Gracia12* and Julio Rozas1

Author Affiliations

1 Departament de Genètica, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Avda. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain

2 Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (CSIC-UPF), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:323  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-323

Published: 27 November 2008

Abstract

Background

The Drosophila Odorant-Binding Protein (Obp) genes constitute a multigene family with moderate gene number variation across species. The OS-E and OS-F genes are the two phylogenetically closest members of this family in the D. melanogaster genome. In this species, these genes are arranged in the same genomic cluster and likely arose by tandem gene duplication, the major mechanism proposed for the origin of new members in this olfactory-system family.

Results

We have analyzed the genomic cluster encompassing OS-E and OS-F genes (Obp83 genomic region) to determine the role of the functional divergence and molecular adaptation on the Obp family size evolution. We compared nucleotide and amino acid variation across 18 Drosophila and 4 mosquito species applying a phylogenetic-based maximum likelihood approach complemented with information of the OBP three-dimensional structure and function. We show that, in spite the OS-E and OS-F genes are currently subject to similar and strong selective constraints, they likely underwent divergent evolution. Positive selection was likely involved in the functional diversification of new copies in the early stages after the gene duplication event; moreover, it might have shaped nucleotide variation of the OS-E gene concomitantly with the loss of functionally related members. Besides, molecular adaptation likely affecting the functional OBP conformational changes was supported by the analysis of the evolution of physicochemical properties of the OS-E protein and the location of the putative positive selected amino acids on the OBP three-dimensional structure.

Conclusion

Our results support that positive selection was likely involved in the functional differentiation of new copies of the OBP multigene family in the early stages after their birth by gene duplication; likewise, it might shape variation of some members of the family concomitantly with the loss of functionally related genes. Thus, the stochastic gene gain/loss process coupled with the impact of natural selection would influence the observed OBP family size.