Report

Mutations in the neverland Gene Turned Drosophila pachea into an Obligate Specialist Species

Science  28 Sep 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6102, pp. 1658-1661
DOI: 10.1126/science.1224829

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Abstract

Most living species exploit a limited range of resources. However, little is known about how tight associations build up during evolution between such specialist species and the hosts they use. We examined the dependence of Drosophila pachea on its single host, the senita cactus. Several amino acid changes in the Neverland oxygenase rendered D. pachea unable to transform cholesterol into 7-dehydrocholesterol (the first reaction in the steroid hormone biosynthetic pathway in insects) and thus made D. pachea dependent on the uncommon sterols of its host plant. The neverland mutations increase survival on the cactus’s unusual sterols and are in a genomic region that faced recent positive selection. This study illustrates how relatively few genetic changes in a single gene may restrict the ecological niche of a species.

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