Data from: Evolutionary and structural analyses uncover a role for solvent interactions in the diversification of cocoonases in butterflies
Smith, Gilbert et al. (2017), Data from: Evolutionary and structural analyses uncover a role for solvent interactions in the diversification of cocoonases in butterflies, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.355qk
Multi-omic approaches promise to supply the power to detect genes underlying disease and fitness-related phenotypes. Optimal use of the resulting profusion of data requires detailed investigation of individual candidate genes, a challenging proposition. Here, we combine transcriptomic and genomic data with molecular modeling of candidate enzymes to characterize the evolutionary history and function of the serine protease cocoonase. Heliconius butterflies possess the unique ability to feed on pollen; recent work has identified cocoonase as a candidate gene in pollen digestion. Cocoonase was first described in moths where it aids in eclosure from the cocoon and is present as a single copy gene. In heliconiine butterflies it is duplicated and highly expressed in the mouthparts of adults. At least 6 copies of cocoonase are present in Heliconius melpomene and copy number varies across H. melpomene sub-populations. Most cocoonase genes are under purifying selection, however branch-site analyses suggest cocoonase 3 genes may have evolved under episodic diversifying selection. Molecular modeling of cocoonase proteins and examination of their predicted structures revealed that the active site region of each type has a similar structure to trypsin, with the same predicted substrate specificity across types. Variation among heliconiine cocoonases instead lies in the outward-facing residues involved in solvent interaction. Thus, the neofunctionalization of cocoonase duplicates appears to have resulted from the need for these serine proteases to operate in diverse biochemical environments. We suggest that cocoonase may have played a buffering role in feeding during the diversification of Heliconius across the neotropics by enabling these butterflies to digest protein from a range of biochemical milieux.