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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Jun 6;97(12):6579-84.

Decoupled evolution of coding region and mRNA expression patterns after gene duplication: implications for the neutralist-selectionist debate.

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  • The Santa Fe Institute, University of New Mexico, Department of Biology, 167A Castetter Hall, Albuquerque, NM 87131-1091, USA. wagnera@unm.edu


The neutralist perspective on molecular evolution maintains that the vast majority of mutations affecting gene function are neutral or deleterious. After a gene duplication where both genes are retained, it predicts that original and duplicate genes diverge at clock-like rates. This prediction is usually tested for coding sequences, but can also be applied to another important aspect of gene function, the genes' expression pattern. Moreover, if both sequence and expression pattern diverge at clock-like rates, a correlation between divergence in sequence and divergence in expression patterns is expected. Duplicate gene pairs with more highly diverged sequences should also show more highly diverged expression patterns. This prediction is tested for a large sample of duplicated genes in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, using both genome sequence and microarray expression data. Only a weak correlation is observed, suggesting that coding sequence and mRNA expression patterns of duplicate gene pairs evolve independently and at vastly different rates. Implications of this finding for the neutralist-selectionist debate are discussed.

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