Activity variation in alcohol dehydrogenase paralogs is associated with adaptation to cactus host use in cactophilic Drosophila



    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Ecology and Evolution, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York 11794–5245
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Luciano M. Matzkin, Present address: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, PO Box 210088, Tucson, AZ 85721–0088; Fax: (520) 626 3522; E-mail:


Drosophila mojavensis and Drosophila arizonae are species of cactophilic flies that share a recent duplication of the alcohol dehydrogenase (Adh) locus. One paralog (Adh-2) is expressed in adult tissues and the other (Adh-1) in larvae and ovaries. Enzyme activity measurements of the ADH-2 amino acid polymorphism in D. mojavensis suggest that the Fast allozyme allele has a higher activity on 2-propanol than 1-propanol. The Fast allele was found at highest frequency in populations that utilize hosts with high proportions of 2-propanol, while the Slow allele is most frequent in populations that utilize hosts with high proportions of 1-propanol. This suggests that selection for ADH-2 allozyme alleles with higher activity on the most abundant alcohols is occurring in each D. mojavensis population. In the other paralog, ADH-1, significant differences between D. mojavensis and D. arizonae are associated with a previously shown pattern of adaptive protein evolution in D. mojavensis. Examination of protein sequences showed that a large number of amino acid fixations between the paralogs have occurred in catalytic residues. These changes are potentially responsible for the significant difference in substrate specificity between the paralogs. Both functional and sequence variation within and between paralogs suggests that Adh has played an important role in the adaptation of D. mojavensis and D. arizonae to their cactophilic life.