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Conservation, Duplication, and Divergence of Five Opsin Genes in Insect Evolution

Feuda, Roberto and Marlétaz, Ferdinand and Bentley, Michael A. and Holland, Peter W. H. (2016) Conservation, Duplication, and Divergence of Five Opsin Genes in Insect Evolution. Genome Biology and Evolution, 8 (3). pp. 579-587. ISSN 1759-6653. PMCID PMC4824169. doi:10.1093/gbe/evw015.

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Opsin proteins covalently bind to small molecular chromophores and each protein-chromophore complex is sensitive to particular wavelengths of light. Multiple opsins with different wavelength absorbance peaks are required for color vision. Comparing opsin responses is challenging at low light levels, explaining why color vision is often lost in nocturnal species. Here, we investigated opsin evolution in 27 phylogenetically diverse insect species including several transitions between photic niches (nocturnal, diurnal, and crepuscular). We find widespread conservation of five distinct opsin genes, more than commonly considered. These comprise one c-opsin plus four r-opsins (long wavelength sensitive or LWS, blue sensitive, ultra violet [UV] sensitive and the often overlooked Rh7 gene). Several recent opsin gene duplications are also detected. The diversity of opsin genes is consistent with color vision in diurnal, crepuscular, and nocturnal insects. Tests for positive selection in relation to photic niche reveal evidence for adaptive evolution in UV-sensitive opsins in day-flying insects in general, and in LWS opsins of day-flying Lepidoptera specifically.

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Additional Information:© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. First published online: February 9, 2016. The authors thank Stephen Richards, Michael Kanost, Gary Blissard, and members of the Tobacco Hornworm Genome Project for use of Manduca data. This study was funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC grant [268513]. Supplementary tables S1 and S2 and figures S1–S5 are available at Genome Biology and Evolution online (
Funding AgencyGrant Number
European Research Council (ERC)268513
Subject Keywords:lepidoptera, arctiidae, butterfly, molecular evolution, adaptive evolution
Issue or Number:3
PubMed Central ID:PMC4824169
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20160509-152306734
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Official Citation:Roberto Feuda, Ferdinand Marlétaz, Michael A. Bentley, and Peter W.H. Holland Conservation, Duplication, and Divergence of Five Opsin Genes in Insect Evolution Genome Biol Evol (2016) Vol. 8 579-587 first published online February 9, 2016 doi:10.1093/gbe/evw015
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:66788
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:09 May 2016 22:45
Last Modified:11 Nov 2021 00:03

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