The genetics of sexually dimorphic traits implicated in sexual isolation in Drosophila : QTLs and candidate genes
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This study is primarily concerned with assessing the influence of the sex determination genes, transformer (tra), doublesex (dsx) and fruitless (fru) on three sexually dimorphic traits within Drosophila; pheromone blend, courtship song and sex comb tooth number. The sex determination loci have all been implicated as possible candidate genes affecting these important traits that contribute to sexual isolation, which is a major cause of speciation. Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) analysis is used to assess the effects of these known candidate genes on the naturally occurring variation of mean interpulse interval (IPI) of courtship song and the differing pheromone blend profiles between Drosophila simulans and D. sechellia. The QTL analysis for both song and pheromone blend variation incorporated Multiple Interval Mapping (MIM), which enables the detection for epistasis. The desaturase loci desat1, desat2 and desatF were also included in the assessment on pheromone blends (cuticular hydrocarbon compounds), since they facilitate ecological adaptation and are also candidate genes, which are likely to exert a large affect on this particular trait. The sex determination genes were not significantly influential on the interspecific variation of the cuticular hydrocarbon compounds between these two sibling species. However significant effects were detected from two of the desaturase loci. desat1 was associated with a strong effect on the interspecific variation of a saturated hydrocarbon chain compound (unbranched-23). Additionally the candidate gene desatF potentially exerts an influence on the variation of 7,11-heptacosadiene, through a large epistatic effect with unidentified loci, situated between the markers pros and Mtn. The candidate gene eloF is situated in this region, and is known to affect the elongation of unsaturated hydrocarbon chains. The QTL associated with the marker desatF influenced the variation of both diene compounds (7,11-heptacosadiene and 7,11-pentacosadiene). Intriguingly epistasis was only detected for the variation of these two diene compounds. The MIM analysis assessing the affects of the sex determination genes on interspecific variation of mean IPI detected the candidate gene fru as the closest marker associated with a significant QTL on the third chromosome. The MIM also found a significant QTL associated with the marker Dgα situated on the second chromosome. Moreover significant epistatic interactions were detected between a further QTL situated nearest the marker forked on the X-chromosome with both of the other significant QTL situated on the third and second chromosomes. The analysis of a number of Recombinant Inbred (RI) lines was also carried out to test for the affects of the sex determination genes on both mean IPI and sex comb tooth number. The fru locus was associated with a significant increase in mean IPI, whereas the opposite was true for the dsx locus. In the analysis of sex comb tooth variation, it appears that all RI lines homozygous for D. sechellia alleles at the sex determination loci had significantly higher numbers of sex comb teeth. The final data chapter involves the sequence analysis of the fruitless locus, including all 13 fru proteins between ten recently sequenced Drosophilid genomes. The PAML program was used to detect the possible influence of natural selection on sequence divergence. There was no significant positive selection detected at the BTB functional domain and the sequences encoding for this domain were extremely conserved. Positive selection was found to be acting on the exon encoding for the Zinc-finger C domain. This domain is present in two protein isoforms including the male sex-specific isoform FRUMC, and the common non-sex-specific isoform FRUComC. Interestingly positive selection was also found at the non sex-specific Zinc-finger D domain.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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