The doublesex (dsx) gene functions as a molecular switch at the base of the insect sex determination cascade, and triggers male or female somatic sexual differentiation in Drosophila. Having been reported from only seven current insect orders, the exact phylogenetic distribution of dsx within the largest Arthropod sub-phylum, the Hexapoda, is unknown. To understand the evolution of this integral gene relative to other arthropods, we tested for the presence of dsx within public EST and genome sequencing projects representative of all 32 hexapod orders. We find the dsx gene to be ubiquitous, with putative orthologs recovered from 30 orders. Additionally, we recovered both alternatively spliced and putative paralogous dsx transcripts from several orders of hexapods, including basal lineages, indicating the likely presence of these characteristics in the hexapod common ancestor. Of note, other arthropods such as chelicerates and crustaceans express two dsx genes, both of which are shown to lack alternative splicing. Furthermore, we discovered a large degree of length heterogeneity in the common region of dsx coding sequences within and among orders, possibly resulting from lineage-specific selective pressures inherent to each taxon. Our work serves as a valuable resource for understanding the evolution of sex determination in insects.
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