The evolution of the knirps family of transcription factors in arthropods

Tal Naggan Perl, Bernhard G.M. Schmid, Jonas Schwirz, Ariel D. Chipman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The orphan nuclear receptor gene knirps and its relatives encode a small family of highly conserved proteins. We take advantage of the conservation of the family, using the recent prevalence of genomic data, to reconstruct its evolutionary history, identifying duplication events and tracing the intron-exon structure of the genes over evolution. Many arthropod species have two or three members of this family, but the orthology between members is unclear. We have analyzed the protein coding sequences of members of this family from 15 arthropod species covering all four main arthropod classes, including a total of 28 genes. All members of the family encode a highly conserved 94 amino acid core sequence, part of which is encoded by a single invariant exon. We find that many of the automated predictions of these genes contain errors, while some copies of the gene were not uncovered by automated pipelines, requiring manual corrections and curation. We use the coding sequences to present a phylogenetic analysis of the knirps family. Our analysis indicates that there was a duplication of a single ancestral gene in the lineage leading to insects, which gave rise to two paralogs, eagle and knirps-related. Descendants of this duplication can be identified by the presence or absence of a short protein-coding motif. Independent, lineage-specific duplications occurred in the two crustaceans we sampled. Within the insects, the knirps-related gene underwent further lineage-specific duplications, giving rise to - among others - the Drosophila gap gene knirps.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1348-1357
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • gene duplication
  • gene family evolution
  • knirps
  • transcription factor


Dive into the research topics of 'The evolution of the knirps family of transcription factors in arthropods'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this