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antiviral genes are not fast evolving in Drosophila innubila

Hill, T, BS Koseva, and RL Unckless. 2018. Antiviral genes are not fast evolving in Drosophila innubila. BioRxiv. doi: 10.1101/383877.

Viruses make up a considerable proportion of the pathogens infecting animals. They can spread rapidly between hosts, and sicken or even kill their hosts to promote their own proliferation. Due to this strong selective pressure, antiviral immune genes are some of the fastest evolving genes across metazoans, as highlighted in mammals and insects. While Drosophila melanogaster are frequently exposed to pathogenic RNA viruses, little is known about D. melanogaster's ecology in terms of viral exposure, or if they are representative of other Drosophila species. Here, we sequence and assemble the genome of a highly diverged, mushroom-feeding Drosophila species, Drosophila innubila, a species frequently exposed to a highly pathogenic DNA virus. We investigate the evolution of the immune system and find little evidence for rapid evolution of the antiviral RNAi genes, though we do find rapid evolution of several other pathways, suggesting alternate means of viral resistance. This contrasts with D. melanogaster, and suggests that evolution of resistance to DNA viruses differs greatly from that of RNA viruses.


  • Hill, T, BS Koseva, and RL Unckless. 2018. Antiviral genes are not fast evolving in Drosophila innubila. BioRxiv. doi: 10.1101/383877. PDF

  • Chapman, JR, T Hill and RL Unckless. 2018. Balancing selection drives the maintenance of genetic variation in Drosophila antimicrobial peptides. BioRxiv. doi:10.1101/298893. PDF

Prior publications

  • Smith, BR and RL Unckless. 2018. Draft genome of Lysinibacillus fusiformis Strain Juneja, a laboratory-derived pathogen of Drosophila melanogaster. Genome Announcements 6(5), e01571-17. doi:10.1128/genomeA.01571-17.
  • Hill, T and R.L. Unckless. 2018. The dynamic evolution of the Drosophila innubila Nudivirus. Infection, Genetics and Evolution 57: 151-157. doi:10.1016/j.meegid.2017.11.013.
  • Hill, T. and R.L. Unckless. 2017. 2017. Baculovirus molecular evolution via gene turnover and recurrent positive selection of key genes. Journal of Virology 91: e01319-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01319-17.
  • Ahmed-Braimah, Y.H., R.L. Unckless and A.G. Clark. 2017. Evolutionary dynamics of male reproductive genes in the Drosophila virilis subgroup. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics 2017;7(9):3145-55. doi:10.1534/g3.117.1136.
  • Akhund-Zade, J., A.O. Bergland and R.L. Unckless. 2016. The genetic basis of natural variation in virgin egg retention in Drosophila melanogaster (Diptera: Drosophilidae). Journal of Insect Science 17(1). doi:10.1093/jisesa/iew094.
  • Lindholm, AK, … RL Unckless, et al. (22 authors).  2016. The ecology and evolutionary dynamics of meiotic drive. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 31:315-326. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2016.02.001.
  • Unckless, RL and BP Lazzaro.  2016. The potential for adaptive maintenance of diversity in insect antimicrobial peptides. Philisophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 371:20150291. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0291.
  • Unckless, RL, VM Howick and BP Lazzaro. 2016. Convergent balancing selection on an antimicrobial peptide in Drosophila.  Current Biology 26:257-262. Doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.11.063
  • Unckless, RL and AG Clark. 2015. Driven to extinction: on the probability of evolutionary rescue from sex-ratio meiotic drive. bioRxiv doi:
  • Unckless, RL, PW Messer T Connallon and AG Clark.  2015. Modeling the Manipulation of Natural Populations by the Mutagenic Chain Reaction.  Genetics 201:425-431. doi: 10.1534/genetics.115.177592 (Highlighted article). 
  • Unckless, RL, SM Rottschaefer and BP Lazzaro. 2015. The Complex Contributions of Genetics and Nutrition to Immunity in Drosophila melanogaster. PLoS Genet 11: e1005030. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1005030
  • Unckless, RL, SM Rottschaefer and BP Lazzaro. 2015. A genome-wide association study for nutritional indices in Drosophila. Genes, Genomes and Genetics 5:417-425. doi: 10.1534/g3.114.016477.
  • Unckless, RL, AM Larracuente and AG Clark. 2015.  Sex-ratio meiotic drive and Y-linked resistance in Drosophila affinis.  Genetics 199:831-840. doi:10.1534/genetics.114.173948.
  • Orr, HA and RL Unckless.  2014.  The population genetics of evolutionary rescue. PLoS Genetics 10(8): e104551.
  • Unckless, RL and AG Clark.  2014.  Sex-ratio meiotic drive and interspecific competition. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 27(8): 1513-1521.
  • Unckless, RL and J Jaenike.  2012. Maintenance of a male-killing Wolbachia in Drosophila innubila by male-killing dependent and male-killing independent mechanisms.  Evolution 66(3):678-689.
  • Unckless, RL.  2011.  The potential role of the X chromosome in the emergence of male-killing from mutualistic endosymbionts.  Journal of Theoretical Biology 291: 99-104.
  • Unckless, RL.  2011.  A DNA virus of Drosophila.  PLoS ONE 6: e26564.
  • Jaenike J, RL Unckless, SN Cockburn, LM Boelio, and SJ Perlman. 2010. Adaptive evolution via symbiosis: recent spread of a defensive symbiont in Drosophila. Science 329: 212-215.
  • Unckless, RL and HA Orr.  2009.  The population genetics of adaptation: multiple substitutions on a smooth fitness landscape.  Genetics 183: 1079-1086.
  • Jaenike J, JK Stahlhut, LM Boelio and RL Unckless.  2009.  Association between Wolbachia and Spiroplasma within Drosophila neotestacea: an emerging symbiotic mutualism.  Molecular Ecology 19: 414-425.
  • Unckless, RL and JK Herren.  2009.  Population genetics of sexually antagonistic mitochondrial mutants under inbreeding.  Journal of Theoretical Biology  260: 132-136.
  • Unckless, RL, LM Boelio, JK Herren and J Jaenike.  2009.  Wolbachia as populations within individual insects: causes and consequences of density variation in natural populations.  Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276: 2805-2811.
  • Unckless, RL, LM Boelio, C Cornish and KA Dyer.  2008.  Isolation and characterization of 30 polymorphic microsatellite loci from the mycophagous fly Drosophila innubila.  Molecular Ecology Research 8: 939-942.
  • Unckless, RL and HA Orr. 2009.  Dobzhansky-Muller incompatibilities and adaptation to a shared environment.  Heredity 102: 214-217.
  • Orr, HA and RL Unckless.  2008.  Population extinction and the genetics of adaptation.  American Naturalist 172: 160-169.
  • Unckless, RL and J Makarewicz.  2007.  The impact of nutrient loading from Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) on water quality, a mesocosm approach.  Hydrobiologia 586: 391-401.