Relaxation of selective constraints causes independent selenoprotein extinction in insect genomes.

TitleRelaxation of selective constraints causes independent selenoprotein extinction in insect genomes.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsChapple CE, Guig├│ R
JournalPLoS ONE

BACKGROUND: Selenoproteins are a diverse family of proteins notable for the presence of the 21st amino acid, selenocysteine. Until very recently, all metazoan genomes investigated encoded selenoproteins, and these proteins had therefore been believed to be essential for animal life. Challenging this assumption, recent comparative analyses of insect genomes have revealed that some insect genomes appear to have lost selenoprotein genes. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In this paper we investigate in detail the fate of selenoproteins, and that of selenoprotein factors, in all available arthropod genomes. We use a variety of in silico comparative genomics approaches to look for known selenoprotein genes and factors involved in selenoprotein biosynthesis. We have found that five insect species have completely lost the ability to encode selenoproteins and that selenoprotein loss in these species, although so far confined to the Endopterygota infraclass, cannot be attributed to a single evolutionary event, but rather to multiple, independent events. Loss of selenoproteins and selenoprotein factors is usually coupled to the deletion of the entire no-longer functional genomic region, rather than to sequence degradation and consequent pseudogenisation. Such dynamics of gene extinction are consistent with the high rate of genome rearrangements observed in Drosophila. We have also found that, while many selenoprotein factors are concomitantly lost with the selenoproteins, others are present and conserved in all investigated genomes, irrespective of whether they code for selenoproteins or not, suggesting that they are involved in additional, non-selenoprotein related functions. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Selenoproteins have been independently lost in several insect species, possibly as a consequence of the relaxation in insects of the selective constraints acting across metazoans to maintain selenoproteins. The dispensability of selenoproteins in insects may be related to the fundamental differences in antioxidant defense between these animals and other metazoans.