Uncovering phylogenetic patterns of cis-regulatory evolution remains a fundamental goal for evolutionary and developmental biology. Here, we characterize the evolution of regulatory loci in butterflies and moths using chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) annotation of regulatory elements across three stages of head development. In the process we provide a high-quality, functionally annotated genome assembly for the butterfly, Heliconius erato. Comparing cis-regulatory element conservation across six lepidopteran genomes, we find that regulatory sequences evolve at a pace similar to that of protein-coding regions. We also observe that elements active at multiple developmental stages are markedly more conserved than elements with stage-specific activity. Surprisingly, we also find that stage-specific proximal and distal regulatory elements evolve at nearly identical rates. Our study provides a benchmark for genome-wide patterns of regulatory element evolution in insects, and it shows that developmental timing of activity strongly predicts patterns of regulatory sequence evolution. Copyright © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Journal: Cell reports