Background: The eusocial Hymenoptera have radiated across a wide range of thermal environments, exposing them to significant physiological stressors. We reconstructed the evolutionary history of three families of Heat Shock Proteins (Hsp90, Hsp70, Hsp40), the primary molecular chaperones protecting against thermal damage, across 12 Hymenopteran species and four other insect orders. We also predicted and tested for thermal inducibility of eight Hsps from the presence of cis-regulatory heat shock elements (HSEs). We tested whether Hsp induction patterns in ants were associated with different thermal environments. Results: We found evidence for duplications, losses, and cis-regulatory changes in two of the three gene families. One member of the Hsp90 gene family, hsp83, duplicated basally in the Hymenoptera, with shifts in HSE motifs in the novel copy. Both copies were retained in bees, but ants retained only the novel HSE copy. For Hsp70, Hymenoptera lack the primary heat-inducible orthologue from Drosophila melanogaster and instead induce the cognate form, hsc70-4, which also underwent an early duplication. Episodic diversifying selection was detected along the branch predating the duplication of hsc70-4 and continued along one of the paralogue branches after duplication. Four out of eight Hsp genes were heat-inducible and matched the predictions based on presence of conserved HSEs. For the inducible homologues, the more thermally tolerant species, Pogonomyrmex barbatus, had greater Hsp basal expression and induction in response to heat stress than did the less thermally tolerant species, Aphaenogaster picea. Furthermore, there was no trade-off between basal expression and induction. Conclusions: Our results highlight the unique evolutionary history of Hsps in eusocial Hymenoptera, which has been shaped by gains, losses, and changes in cis-regulation. Ants, and most likely other Hymenoptera, utilize lineage-specific heat inducible Hsps, whose expression patterns are associated with adaptive variation in thermal tolerance between two ant species. Collectively, our analyses suggest that Hsp sequence and expression patterns may reflect the forces of selection acting on thermal tolerance in ants and other social Hymenoptera.
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© 2015 Nguyen et al.
Nguyen AD, Gotelli NJ, Cahan SH. The evolution of heat shock protein sequences, cis-regulatory elements, and expression profiles in the eusocial Hymenoptera. BMC evolutionary biology. 2016 Dec;16(1):1-3.