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New Zealand Tree and Giant Wētā (Orthoptera) Transcriptomics Reveal Divergent Selection Patterns in Metabolic Loci

  • Victoria G. Twort
  • Richard D. Newcomb
  • Thomas R. Buckley
Publishing year: 2019
Language: English
Pages: 1293-1306
Publication/Series: Genome Biology and Evolution
Volume: 11
Issue: 4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract english

Exposure to low temperatures requires an organism to overcome physiological challenges. New Zealand wētā belonging to the genera Hemideina and Deinacrida are found across a wide range of thermal environments and therefore subject to varying selective pressures. Here we assess the selection pressures across the wētā phylogeny, with a particular emphasis on identifying genes under positive or diversifying selection. We used RNA-seq to generate transcriptomes for all 18 Deinacrida and Hemideina species. A total of 755 orthologous genes were identified using a bidirectional best-hit approach, with the resulting gene set encompassing a diverse range of functional classes. Analysis of ortholog ratios of synonymous to nonsynonymous amino acid changes found 83 genes that are under positive selection for at least one codon. A wide variety of Gene Ontology terms, enzymes, and KEGG (Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes) pathways are represented among these genes. In particular, enzymes involved in oxidative phosphorylation, melanin synthesis, and free-radical scavenging are represented, consistent with physiological and metabolic changes that are associated with adaptation to alpine environments. Structural alignment of the transcripts with the most codons under positive selection revealed that the majority of sites are surface residues, and therefore have the potential to influence the thermostability of the enzyme, with the exception of prophenoloxidase where two residues near the active site are under selection. These proteins provide interesting candidates for further analysis of protein evolution.


  • Genetics
  • Zoology
  • diversifying selection
  • metabolic rate
  • molecular evolution
  • transcriptome


  • ISSN: 1759-6653
Victoria Twort
E-mail: victoria [dot] twort [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Postdoctoral fellow


Sölvegatan 37, Lund


Research group

Systematic Biology Group



Postdoc host

Niklas Wahlberg