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In Drosophila melanogaster, a key germline stem cell (GSC) differentiation factor, bag of marbles (bam) shows rapid bursts of amino acid fixations between sibling species D. melanogaster and Drosophila simulans, but not in the outgroup species Drosophila ananassae. Here, we test the null hypothesis that bam's differentiation function is conserved between D. melanogaster and four additional Drosophila species in the melanogaster species group spanning approximately 30 million years of divergence. Surprisingly, we demonstrate that bam is not necessary for oogenesis or spermatogenesis in Drosophila teissieri nor is bam necessary for spermatogenesis in D. ananassae. Remarkably bam function may change on a relatively short time scale. We further report tests of neutral sequence evolution at bam in additional species of Drosophila and find a positive, but not perfect, correlation between evidence for positive selection at bam and its essential role in GSC regulation and fertility for both males and females. Further characterization of bam function in more divergent lineages will be necessary to distinguish between bam's critical gametogenesis role being newly derived in D. melanogaster, D. simulans, Drosophila yakuba, and D. ananassae females or it being basal to the genus and subsequently lost in numerous lineages. © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.


Jaclyn E Bubnell, Cynthia K S Ulbing, Paula Fernandez Begne, Charles F Aquadro. Functional Divergence of the bag-of-marbles Gene in the Drosophila melanogaster Species Group. Molecular biology and evolution. 2022 Jul 02;39(7)

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PMID: 35714266

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