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New Insights Into the Evolution of Butterfly Wing Patterns

Nuanced changes to deeply ancestral, multifunctional noncoding genetic elements, rather than the gain and loss of pattern-specific enhancers, have driven the diverse patterns of butterfly wings, according to a study appearing in this week's Science. Butterfly wing patters derive from a deeply conserved developmental ground plan yet are diverse and evolve rapidly. Just how gene regulatory architectures can accommodate both deep homology and adaptive change, however, is poorly understood. To investigate, a Cornell University-led team set out to characterize the cis-regulatory evolution of the color pattern gene WntA, leveraging ATAC-seq and CRISPR knockouts for 46 cis-regulatory elements across five species of butterflies belonging to the family Nymphalidae. They uncovered deep homology of ground plan-determining sequences, except in monarch butterflies, which are quite distantly related to the other species of butterflies included in the study and find that noncoding deletions displayed both positive and negative regulatory effects that were often broad in nature. The results, the authors write, "provide little support for models predicting rapid enhancer turnover and suggest that deeply ancestral, multifunctional noncoding elements can underlie rapidly evolving trait systems.

The Scan

ChatGPT Does As Well As Humans Answering Genetics Questions, Study Finds

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics had ChatGPT answer genetics-related questions, finding it was about 68 percent accurate, but sometimes gave different answers to the same question.

Sequencing Analysis Examines Gene Regulatory Networks of Honeybee Soldier, Forager Brains

Researchers in Nature Ecology & Evolution find gene regulatory network differences between soldiers and foragers, suggesting bees can take on either role.

Analysis of Ashkenazi Jewish Cohort Uncovers New Genetic Loci Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

The study in Alzheimer's & Dementia highlighted known genes, but also novel ones with biological ties to Alzheimer's disease.

Tara Pacific Expedition Project Team Finds High Diversity Within Coral Reef Microbiome

In papers appearing in Nature Communications and elsewhere, the team reports on findings from the two-year excursion examining coral reefs.