The carotenoid-binding protein (CBP) of the domesticated silkworm, Bombyx mori, a major determinant of cocoon color, is likely to have been substantially influenced by domestication of this species. We analyzed the structure of the CBP gene in multiple strains of B. mori, in multiple individuals of the wild silkworm, B. mandarina (the putative wild ancestor of B. mori), and in a number of other lepidopterans. We found the CBP gene copy number in genomic DNA to vary widely among B. mori strains, ranging from 1 to 20. The copies of CBP are of several types, based on the presence of a retrotransposon or partial deletion of the coding sequence. In contrast to B. mori, B. mandarina was found to possess a single copy of CBP without the retrotransposon insertion, regardless of habitat. Several other lepidopterans were found to contain sequences homologous to CBP, revealing that this gene is evolutionarily conserved in the lepidopteran lineage. Thus, domestication can generate significant diversity of gene copy number and structure over a relatively short evolutionary time.
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