Recurrent and recent selective sweeps in the piRNA pathway

Alfred Simkin, Alex Wong, Yu Ping Poh, William E. Theurkauf, Jeffrey D. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Uncontrolled transposable element (TE) insertions and excisions can cause chromosome breaks and mutations with dramatic deleterious effects. The PIWI interacting RNA (piRNA) pathway functions as an adaptive TE silencing system during germline development. Several essential piRNA pathway proteins appear to be rapidly evolving, suggesting that TEs and the silencing machinery may be engaged in a classical "evolutionary arms race." Using a variety of molecular evolutionary and population genetic approaches, we find that the piRNA pathway genes rhino, krimper, and aubergine show patterns suggestive of extensive recurrent positive selection across Drosophila species. We speculate that selection on these proteins reflects crucial roles in silencing unfamiliar elements during vertical and horizontal transmission of TEs into naïve populations and species, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1081-1090
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Competition
  • Maternal effect
  • Molecular evolution
  • Parasitism
  • Polymorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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