Characterization of the expression patterns of the retrogene-parental gene pairs in the African malaria vector Anopheles coluzzii

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Retrogenes are a group of functional genes produced by gene retroduplication events during evolution. It has been observed that many retrogenes have formed since the evolutionary divergence of Anopheles mosquitoes from the Aedes lineage as a result of developing heteromorphic sex chromosomes. It has been further observed that these retroduplications predominately occur from parent genes on the heteromorphic X chromosome to autosomes and have a predisposition to have enriched expression in testis. In order to investigate the nature of this male-biased expression in testis, we utilized bioinformatic techniques to identify retrotransposition events and assign them relative ages based on evolutionary branches of divergence. This list of parent genes and retrogenes were then analyzed and a total of twenty-five gene pairs were selected for further examination. Available gene expression data in the form of RNA-seq and DNA microarray were used in tandem with gene annotation data to computationally investigate gene pairs in An. coluzzii. These pairs were further investigated experimentally by means of RT-PCR conducted on dissected head, thorax, abdomen, and reproductive organs in both male and female Anopheles coluzzii Mopti strain. Testis and male accessory glands (MAGs) were also investigated by this method in An. coluzzii. Available expression data support previously observed testis enriched expression of retrogenes and provides evidence for the predominate expression of retrogenes occurring in postmeiotic cells suggesting retrogene involvement in sperm development. Experimental evidence revealed a small group of five retrogenes which exhibit the expected male-biased expression in male testis with little to no expression in female ovaries, although a shared expression in the heads of both sexes was observed. Of the five retrogenes, four carry out energy related functions involving mitochondria, suggesting contribution to energy requirements of developing sperm. Testis and MAG experiments in An. coluzzii revealed a predisposition for retrogenes to be expressed in testis while parent genes tended to have higher expression in MAGs, and this phenomenon is partially supported by DNA microarray expression data. Overall, these results suggest further investigation of retrogenes in An. coluzzii may reveal unique functions in male mosquito fertility that are exploitable in genetic approaches to mosquito control.



Retrogene, Retrotransposition, Male-biased expression, Anopheles coluzzii, Male accessory glands, Meiotic sex chromosome activation, Sexual antagonism