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Open Access Short report

Rapid isolation of gene homologs across taxa: Efficient identification and isolation of gene orthologs from non-model organism genomes, a technical report

Alison Heffer and Leslie Pick*

Author Affiliations

Program in Molecular & Cell Biology and Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, 4112 Plant Sciences Building, College Park, MD 20742, USA

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EvoDevo 2011, 2:7  doi:10.1186/2041-9139-2-7

Published: 1 March 2011

Abstract

Background

Tremendous progress has been made in the field of evo-devo through comparisons of related genes from diverse taxa. While the vast number of species in nature precludes a complete analysis of the molecular evolution of even one single gene family, this would not be necessary to understand fundamental mechanisms underlying gene evolution if experiments could be designed to systematically sample representative points along the path of established phylogenies to trace changes in regulatory and coding gene sequence. This isolation of homologous genes from phylogenetically diverse, representative species can be challenging, especially if the gene is under weak selective pressure and evolving rapidly.

Results

Here we present an approach - Rapid Isolation of Gene Homologs across Taxa (RIGHT) - to efficiently isolate specific members of gene families. RIGHT is based upon modification and a combination of degenerate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and gene-specific amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP). It allows targeted isolation of specific gene family members from any organism, only requiring genomic DNA. We describe this approach and how we used it to isolate members of several different gene families from diverse arthropods spanning millions of years of evolution.

Conclusions

RIGHT facilitates systematic isolation of one gene from large gene families. It allows for efficient gene isolation without whole genome sequencing, RNA extraction, or culturing of non-model organisms. RIGHT will be a generally useful method for isolation of orthologs from both distant and closely related species, increasing sample size and facilitating the tracking of molecular evolution of gene families and regulatory networks across the tree of life.