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Open Access Research article

Annotation and analysis of a large cuticular protein family with the R&R Consensus in Anopheles gambiae

R Scott Cornman1, Toru Togawa1, W Augustine Dunn1, Ningjia He2, Aaron C Emmons1 and Judith H Willis1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cellular Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602 USA

2 The Key Laboratory of Sericulture, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, PR China

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:22  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-22

Published: 18 January 2008

Abstract

Background

The most abundant family of insect cuticular proteins, the CPR family, is recognized by the R&R Consensus, a domain of about 64 amino acids that binds to chitin and is present throughout arthropods. Several species have now been shown to have more than 100 CPR genes, inviting speculation as to the functional importance of this large number and diversity.

Results

We have identified 156 genes in Anopheles gambiae that code for putative cuticular proteins in this CPR family, over 1% of the total number of predicted genes in this species. Annotation was verified using several criteria including identification of TATA boxes, INRs, and DPEs plus support from proteomic and gene expression analyses. Two previously recognized CPR classes, RR-1 and RR-2, form separate, well-supported clades with the exception of a small set of genes with long branches whose relationships are poorly resolved. Several of these outliers have clear orthologs in other species. Although both clades are under purifying selection, the RR-1 variant of the R&R Consensus is evolving at twice the rate of the RR-2 variant and is structurally more labile. In contrast, the regions flanking the R&R Consensus have diversified in amino-acid composition to a much greater extent in RR-2 genes compared with RR-1 genes. Many genes are found in compact tandem arrays that may include similar or dissimilar genes but always include just one of the two classes. Tandem arrays of RR-2 genes frequently contain subsets of genes coding for highly similar proteins (sequence clusters). Properties of the proteins indicated that each cluster may serve a distinct function in the cuticle.

Conclusion

The complete annotation of this large gene family provides insight on the mechanisms of gene family evolution and clues about the need for so many CPR genes. These data also should assist annotation of other Anopheles genes.