Microevolutionary divergence pattern of the segmentation gene hunchback in Drosophila.

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To study the microevolutionary processes shaping the evolution of the segmentation gene hunchback (hb) from Drosophila melanogaster, we cloned and sequenced the gene from 12 isofemale lines representing wild-type populations of D. melanogaster, as well as from the closely related species Drosophila sechellia, Drosophila orena, and Drosophila yakuba. We find a relatively low degree of sequence variation in D. melanogaster (theta = 0.0017), which is, however, consistent with its chromosomal location in a region of low recombination. Tests of neutrality do not reject a neutral-evolution model for the whole region. However, pairwise tests with different subregions indicate that there is a relative excess of polymorphic sites in the leader and the intron. Codon usage pattern analysis shows a particularly biased codon usage in the highly conserved regions, which is in line with the hypothesis that selection on translational accuracy is the driving force behind such a bias. A comparison of the expression pattern of hb in different sibling species of D. melanogaster reveals some regulatory changes in D. yakuba, which could be interpreted as changes in the timing of secondary expression domains.

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