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Open Access item Molecular adaptation and resilience of the insect's nuclear receptor USP

Authors:Chaumot, Arnaud
Da Lage, Jean-Luc
Maestro, Oscar
Martin, David
Iwema, Thomas
Brunet, Frederic
Bellés, Xavier
Laudet, Vincent
Bonneton, François
Issue Date:5-Oct-2012
Publisher:BioMed Central
Citation:BMC Evolutionary Biology. 5;12(1):199 (2012 )
Abstract:Abstract Background The maintenance of biological systems requires plasticity and robustness. The function of the ecdysone receptor, a heterodimer composed of the nuclear receptors ECR (NR1H1) and USP (NR2B4), was maintained in insects despite a dramatic divergence that occurred during the emergence of Mecopterida. This receptor is therefore a good model to study the evolution of plasticity. We tested the hypothesis that selection has shaped the Ligand-Binding Domain (LBD) of USP during evolution of Mecopterida. Results We isolated usp and cox1 in several species of Drosophilidae, Tenebrionidae and Blattaria and estimated non-synonymous/synonymous rate ratios using maximum-likelihood methods and codon-based substitution models. Although the usp sequences were mainly under negative selection, we detected relaxation at residues located on the surface of the LBD within Mecopterida families. Using branch-site models, we also detected changes in selective constraints along three successive branches of the Mecopterida evolution. Residues located at the bottom of the ligand-binding pocket (LBP) underwent strong positive selection during the emergence of Mecopterida. This change is correlated with the acquisition of a large LBP filled by phospholipids that probably allowed the stabilisation of the new Mecopterida structure. Later, when the two subgroups of Mecopterida (Amphiesmenoptera: Lepidoptera, Trichoptera; Antliophora: Diptera, Mecoptera, Siphonaptera) diverged, the same positions became under purifying selection. Similarly, several positions of the heterodimerisation interface experienced positive selection during the emergence of Mecopterida, rapidly followed by a phase of constrained evolution. An enlargement of the heterodimerisation surface is specific for Mecopterida and was associated with a reinforcement of the obligatory partnership between ECR and USP, at the expense of homodimerisation. Conclusions In order to explain the episodic mode of evolution of USP, we propose a model in which the molecular adaptation of this protein is seen as a process of resilience for the maintenance of the ecdysone receptor functionality.
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