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Keywords:

  • non-coding RNA;
  • pseudogene;
  • Apis mellifera;
  • short proteins;
  • cysteine-rich peptide;
  • genomic rearrangement

Abstract

We identified a predicted compact cysteine-rich sequence in the honey bee genome that we called ‘Raalin’. Raalin transcripts are enriched in the brain of adult honey bee workers and drones, with only minimum expression in other tissues or in pre-adult stages. Open-reading frame (ORF) homologues of Raalin were identified in the transcriptomes of fruit flies, mosquitoes and moths. The Raalin-like gene from Drosophila melanogaster encodes for a short secreted protein that is maximally expressed in the adult brain with negligible expression in other tissues or pre-imaginal stages. Raalin-like sequences have also been found in the recently sequenced genomes of six ant species, but not in the jewel wasp Nasonia vitripennis. As in the honey bee, the Raalin-like sequences of ants do not have an ORF. A comparison of the genome region containing Raalin in the genomes of bees, ants and the wasp provides evolutionary support for an extensive genome rearrangement in this sequence. Our analyses identify a new family of ancient cysteine-rich short sequences in insects in which insertions and genome rearrangements may have disrupted this locus in the branch leading to the Hymenoptera. The regulated expression of this transcript suggests that it has a brain-specific function.