In Diptera (Insecta), alternatively spliced male-specific and female-specific products of the doublesex (dsx) gene play a key role in regulating development of the adult genital structures from the genital disc. Analysis of the pattern of nucleotide substitution of different domains of the dsx gene in 29 dipteran species showed that, over short evolutionary times, purifying selection predominated on the domain common to both sexes, the female-specific exons, and the and male-specific exon. However, over longer the evolutionary time frames represented by between-family comparisons, the male-specific exon accumulated nonsynonymous substitutions at a much more rapid rate than either the common domain or the female-specific exon. Overall, the accumulation of nonsynonymous substitutions in the male-specific exon occurred at a significantly greater than linear rate relative to the common domain, whereas the accumulation of nonsynonymous substitutions in the female-specific exon occurred at less than linear rate relative to the common domain. The evolution of the male-specific exon of dsx thus shows a pattern reminiscent of that seen in the "runaway" evolution of male secondary sexual characters at the morphological level, consistent with the hypothesis that female choice is an important factor in the morphological diversification of insect male genitalia.
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