Many cytoskeletal proteins perform fundamental biological processes and are evolutionarily ancient. For example, the superfamily of actin-related proteins (Arps) specialized early in eukaryotic evolution for diverse cellular roles in the cytoplasm and the nucleus. Despite its strict conservation across eukaryotes, we find that the Arp superfamily has undergone dramatic lineage-specific diversification in Drosophila. Our phylogenomic analyses reveal four independent Arp gene duplications that occurred in the common ancestor of the obscura group of Drosophila and have been mostly preserved in this lineage. All four obscura-specific Arp paralogs are predominantly expressed in the male germline and have evolved under positive selection. We focus our analyses on the divergent Arp2D paralog, which arose via a retroduplication event from Arp2, a component of the Arp2/3 complex that polymerizes branched actin networks. Computational modeling analyses suggest that Arp2D can replace Arp2 in the Arp2/3 complex and bind actin monomers. Together with the signature of positive selection, our findings suggest that Arp2D may augment Arp2's functions in the male germline. Indeed, we find that Arp2D is expressed during and following male meiosis, where it localizes to distinct locations such as actin cones - specialized cytoskeletal structures that separate bundled spermatids into individual mature sperm. We hypothesize that this unprecedented burst of genetic innovation in cytoskeletal proteins may have been driven by the evolution of sperm heteromorphism in the obscura group of Drosophila.
- cell biology
- molecular dynamic simulations
- positive selection
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology