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The insect chemoreceptor superfamily, consisting of the odorant receptor (Or) and gustatory receptor (Gr) families, exhibits patterns of evolution ranging from highly conserved proteins to lineage-specific gene subfamily expansions when compared across insect suborders and orders. Here their evolution across the timespan of 25 million years is examined which yield orthologous divergences ranging from 5-50%. They also reveal the beginnings of lineage-specific gene subfamilies as multiple duplications of particular gene lineages in either or both Drosophila melanogaster and D. pseudoobscura (Frolova and Astaurov) (Diptera: Drosophilidae). Gene losses and pseudogenes are similarly evident in both lineages, and even in closer comparisons of D. melanogaster with D. yakuba, leaving these species with roughly similar numbers of chemoreceptors despite considerable gene turnover. The large range of divergences and gene duplications provide abundant raw material for studies of structure and function in this novel superfamily, which contains proteins that evolved to bind specific ligands that mediate much of the ecology and mating behavior of insects.


Hugh M Robertson. The insect chemoreceptor superfamily in Drosophila pseudoobscura: molecular evolution of ecologically-relevant genes over 25 million years. Journal of insect science (Online). 2009;9:18

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PMID: 19613461

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