The nucleotide changes governing cuticular hydrocarbon variation and their evolution in Drosophila melanogaster

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Mar 27;98(7):3920-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.061465098. Epub 2001 Mar 20.


The cuticular hydrocarbon (CH) pheromones in Drosophila melanogaster exhibit strong geographic variation. African and Caribbean populations have a high ratio of 5,9 heptacosadiene/7,11 heptacosadiene (the "High" CH type), whereas populations from all other areas have a low ratio ("Low" CH type). Based on previous genetic mapping, DNA markers were developed that localized the genetic basis of this CH polymorphism to within a 13-kb region. We then carried out a hierarchical search for diagnostic nucleotide sites starting with four lines, and increasing to 24 and 43 lines from a worldwide collection. Within the 13-kb region, only one variable site shows a complete concordance with the CH phenotype. This is a 16-bp deletion in the 5' region of a desaturase gene (desat2) that was recently suggested to be responsible for the CH polymorphism on the basis of its expression [Dallerac, R., Labeur, C., Jallon, J.-M., Knipple, D. C., Roelofs, W. L. & Wicker-Thomas, C. (2000) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 97, 9449--9454]. The cosmopolitan Low type is derived from the ancestral High type, and DNA sequence variations suggest that the former spread worldwide with the aid of positive selection. Whether this CH variation could be a component of the sexual isolation between Zimbabwe and other cosmopolitan populations remains an interesting and unresolved question.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genes, Insect*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Hydrocarbons / chemistry*
  • Insect Proteins / chemistry
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Selection, Genetic


  • Hydrocarbons
  • Insect Proteins
  • cuticle proteins, insects

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AB055098
  • GENBANK/AB055099
  • GENBANK/AB055100
  • GENBANK/AB055101