Evolutionary Biology

Wasp venom evolution

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Science  21 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6348, pp. 264-265
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6348.264-a

Parasitoid wasps have evolved venoms for host control.

PHOTO: HUTTON/TOM STACK ASSOC/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Parasitoid wasps use venom to immobilize their hosts and manipulate them into providing a suitable environment for the growth of wasp larvae. In response to changes in host ranges and availability, venom genes need to evolve rapidly to maintain efficacy. Martinson et al. studied the sequence and expression of venom genes in closely related wasp species to determine how they evolve. The authors found that many of these genes do not evolve through duplication and neofunctionalization, as expected, but rather are the result of co-opting single-copy genes of different functions. Similarly to genes that have lost venom function, these new venom genes are not a consequence of alterations in the gene sequence itself, but instead have modified cis-regulated expression patterns.

Curr. Biol. 10.1016/j.cub.2017.05.032 (2017).

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