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Function and evolution of uncoupling proteins in Drosophila melanogaster

Final Activity Report Summary - UNCOUPLING PROTEINS (Function and evolution of uncoupling proteins in Drosophila Melanogaster)

A major challenge in evolutionary biology today is understanding the genetic and molecular mechanisms that give rise to phenotypic differences within and between species. Such differences can arise from mutations affecting the function of gene products (i.e. proteins or RNAs) or mutations that affect expression of these genes. Historically, researchers have looked almost exclusively for (and often found) changes in protein coding regions that appeared to contribute to phenotypic evolution; however, during the last decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of studies showing that changes affecting gene regulation can also bring about diversity in ecologically relevant traits that affect behaviour, physiology, and morphology.

Using various approaches, such as measuring allelic expression with next generation sequencing methods, we dissected the genetic basis of changes in gene expression in Drosophila species.

We showed that:
1) mutations affecting gene expression are generally recessive;
2) they accumulate preferentially in promoters of genes (cis-regulation)
3) cis-acting factors are more additive than trans-acting factors such as transcriptional factors;
4) the global level of gene expression of a genome could be affected by the cytoplasm; and finally
5) the expression of genes in the germlines favours the insertion of transposable elements in their neighbourhood.