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Vedanayagam, J.P., Garrigan, D. (2015). The effects of natural selection across molecular pathways in Drosophila melanogaster.  BMC Evol. Biol. 15(1): 203.
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Whole-genome RNA interference post-transcriptional silencing (RNAi) is a widely used method for studying the phenotypic effects of knocking down individual genes. In this study, we use a population genomic approach to characterize the rate of evolution for proteins affecting 26 RNAi knockdown phenotypes in Drosophila melanogaster. We find that only two of the 26 RNAi knockdown phenotypes are enriched for rapidly evolving proteins: innate immunity and regulation of Hedgehog signaling. Among all genes associated with an RNAi knockdown phenotype, we note examples in which the adaptively evolving proteins play a well-defined role in a given molecular pathway. However, most adaptively evolving proteins are found to perform more general cellular functions. When RNAi phenotypes are grouped into categories according to cellular function, we find that genes involved in the greatest number of phenotypic categories are also significantly more likely to have a history of rapid protein evolution. We show that genes that have been demonstrated to have a measurable effect on multiple molecular phenotypes show higher rates of protein evolution than genes having an effect on a single category of phenotype. Defining pleiotropy in this way yields very different results than previous studies that define pleiotropy by the number of physical interactions, which show highly connected proteins tend to evolve more slowly than lowly connected proteins. We suggest that a high degree of pleiotropy may increase the likelihood of compensatory substitution, consistent with modern theoretical work on adaptation.

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PMC4578789 (PMC) (EuropePMC)
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    BMC Evol. Biol.
    BMC Evolutionary Biology
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