Rapid intraspecific evolution of miRNA and siRNA genes in the mosquito Aedes aegypti
RNA silencing, or RNA interference (RNAi) in metazoans mediates development, reduces viral infection and limits transposon mobility. RNA silencing involves 21–30 nucleotide RNAs classified into microRNA (miRNA), exogenous and endogenous small interfering RNAs (siRNA), and Piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA). Knock-out, silencing and mutagenesis of genes in the exogenous siRNA (exo-siRNA) regulatory network demonstrate the importance of this RNAi pathway in antiviral immunity in Drosophila and mosquitoes. In Drosophila, genes encoding components for processing exo-siRNAs are among the fastest evolving 3% of all genes, suggesting that infection with pathogenic RNA viruses may drive diversifying selection in their host. In contrast, paralogous miRNA pathway genes do not evolve more rapidly than the genome average. Silencing of exo-siRNA pathway genes in mosquitoes orally infected with arboviruses leads to increased viral replication, but little is known about the comparative patterns of molecular evolution among the exo-siRNA and miRNA pathways genes in mosquitoes. We generated nearly complete sequences of all exons of major miRNA and siRNA pathway genes dicer-1 and dicer-2, argonaute-1 and argonaute-2, and r3d1 and r2d2 in 104Aedes aegypti mosquitoes collected from six distinct geographic populations and analyzed their genetic diversity. The ratio of replacement to silent amino acid substitutions was 1.4 fold higher in dicer-2 than in dicer-1, 27.4 fold higher in argonaute-2 than in argonaute-1 and similar in r2d2and r3d1. Positive selection was supported in 32% of non-synonymous sites in dicer-1, in 47% of sites in dicer-2, in 30% of sites in argonaute-1, in all sites in argonaute-2, in 22% of sites inr3d1 and in 55% of sites in r2d2. Unlike Drosophila, in Ae. aegypti, both exo-siRNA and miRNA pathway genes appear to be undergoing rapid, positive, diversifying selection. Furthermore, refractoriness of mosquitoes to infection with dengue virus was significantly positively correlated for nucleotide diversity indices in dicer-2.