Molecular evolution of Drosophila odorant receptor genes

Mol Biol Evol. 2007 May;24(5):1198-207. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msm038. Epub 2007 Mar 1.


A total of 752 odorant receptor (Or) genes, including pseudogenes, were identified in 11 Drosophila species and named after their orthologs in Drosophila melanogaster. The 813 Or genes, including 61 from D. melanogaster, were classified into 59 orthologous groups that are well supported by gene phylogeny. By reconciling with the gene family phylogeny, we estimated the number of gene duplication/loss events and intron gain/loss events in the species phylogeny. We found that these events are particularly frequent in Drosophila grimshawi, Drosophila willistoni, and obscura group. More than half of the duplicated genes stay as tandem arrays, whose size range from 2 to 8. These genes vary in sequence and some likely underwent positive selection, indicating that the gene duplication was important for flies to acquire new olfactory functions. We hypothesize that Or genes conferred the basic olfactory repertoire to ancestral flies before the speciation of the Drosophila and Sophophora subgenera about 40 Mya. This repertoire has been largely maintained in the current species, whereas lineage-specific gene duplication seems to have led to additional specialization in some species in response to specific ecological conditions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / classification
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Duplication
  • Genes, Insect
  • Phylogeny
  • Receptors, Odorant / genetics*
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Species Specificity
  • Terminology as Topic


  • Receptors, Odorant