Gene family expansions in aphids maintained by endosymbiotic and nonsymbiotic traits

Rebecca P. Duncan, Honglin Feng, Douglas M. Nguyen, Alex C.C. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Facilitating the evolution of new gene functions, gene duplication is a major mechanism driving evolutionary innovation. Gene family expansions relevant to host/symbiont interactions are increasingly being discovered in eukaryotes that host endosymbiotic microbes. Such discoveries entice speculation that gene duplication facilitates the evolution of novel, endosymbiotic relationships. Here, using a comparative transcriptomic approach combined with differential gene expression analysis, we investigate the importance of endosymbiosis in retention of amino acid transporter paralogs in aphid genomes. To pinpoint the timing of amino acid transporter duplications we inferred gene phylogenies for five aphid species and three outgroups. We found that while some duplications arose in the aphid common ancestor concurrent with endosymbiont acquisition,others predate aphid divergence from related insects without intracellular symbionts, and still others appeared during aphid diversification. Interestingly, several aphid-specific paralogs have conserved enriched expression in bacteriocytes, the insect cells that host primary symbionts.Conserved bacteriocyte enrichment suggests that the transporters were recruited to the aphid/endosymbiont interface in the aphid common ancestor, consistent with a role for gene duplication in facilitating the evolution of endosymbiosis in aphids. In contrast, the temporal variability of amino acid transporter duplication indicates that endosymbiosis is not the only trait driving selection for retention of amino acid transporter paralogs in sap-feeding insects. This study cautions against simplistic interpretations of the role of gene family expansion in the evolution of novel host/symbiont interactions by further highlighting that multiple complex factors maintain gene family paralogs in the genomes of eukaryotes that host endosymbiotic microbes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)753-764
Number of pages12
JournalGenome biology and evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2016


  • Amino acid transporter
  • Aphid
  • Buchnera
  • Gene duplication
  • Symbiosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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