Background: At the very end of the larval stage Drosophila regurgitate a glue secreted by their salivary glands to attach themselves to a substrate while pupariating. The glue is a mixture of apparently unrelated proteins, some of which are highly glycosylated and possess internal repeats. Because species adhere to distinct substrates (i.e. leaves, wood, rotten fruits), glue genes are expected to evolve rapidly. Results: We used available genome sequences and PCR-sequencing of regions of interest to investigate the glue genes in 20 Drosophila species. We discovered a new gene in addition to the seven glue genes annotated in D. melanogaster. We also identified a phase 1 intron at a conserved position present in five of the eight glue genes of D. melanogaster, suggesting a common origin for those glue genes. A slightly significant rate of gene turnover was inferred. Both the number of repeats and the repeat sequence were found to diverge rapidly, even between closely related species. We also detected high repeat number variation at the intrapopulation level in D. melanogaster. Conclusion: Most conspicuous signs of accelerated evolution are found in the repeat regions of several glue genes.
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