Adaptive evolution of a novel Drosophila lectin induced by parasitic wasp attack

Erin S. Keebaugh, Todd A. Schlenke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Drosophila melanogaster has long been used as a model for the molecular genetics of innate immunity. Such work has uncovered several immune receptors that recognize bacterial and fungal pathogens by binding unique components of their cell walls and membranes. Drosophila also act as hosts to metazoan pathogens such as parasitic wasps, which can infect a majority of individuals in natural populations, but many aspects of their immune responses against these more closely related pathogens are poorly understood. Here, we present data describing the transcriptional induction and molecular evolution of a candidate Drosophila anti-wasp immunity gene, lectin-24A. Lectin-24A has a secretion signal sequence and its lectin domain suggests a function in sugar group binding. Transcript levels of lectin-24A were induced significantly stronger and faster following wasp attack than following wounding or bacterial infection, demonstrating lectin-24A is not a general stress response or defense response gene but is instead part of a specific response against wasps. The major site of lectin-24A transcript production is the fat body, the main humoral immune tissue of flies. Interestingly, lectin-24A is a new gene of the D. melanogaster/Drosophila simulans clade, displaying very little homology to any other Drosophila lectins. Population genetic analyses of lectin-24A DNA sequence data from African and North American populations of D. melanogaster and D. simulans revealed gene length polymorphisms segregating at high frequencies as well as strong evidence of repeated and recent selective sweeps. Thus, lectin-24A is a rapidly evolving new gene that has seemingly developed functional importance for fly resistance against infection by parasitic wasps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)565-577
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Drosophila
  • immunity
  • lectin
  • molecular evolution
  • new gene
  • parasitic wasp

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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