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Mol Biol Evol. 2003 Jun;20(6):955-63. Epub 2003 Apr 25.

Population genetic variation in genome-wide gene expression.

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  • 1Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, USA. townsend@nature.berkeley.edu


Evolutionary biologists seek to understand which traits display variation, are heritable, and influence differential reproduction, because such traits respond to natural selection and underlie organic evolution. Selection acts upon individual differences within a population. Whether individual differences within a natural population include variation in gene expression levels has not yet been addressed on a genome-wide scale. Here we use DNA microarray technology for measuring comparative gene expression and a refined statistical analysis for the purpose of comparing gene expression levels in natural isolates of the wine yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. A method for the Bayesian analysis of gene expression levels is used to compare four natural isolates of S. cerevisiae from Montalcino, Italy. Widespread variation in amino acid metabolism, sulfur assimilation and processing, and protein degradation-primarily consisting of differences in expression level smaller than a factor of 2-is demonstrated. Genetic variation in gene expression among isolates from a natural population is present on a genomic scale. It remains to be determined what role differential gene expression may play in adaptation to new or changing environments.

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