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Genome Biol. 2008;9(2):R33. doi: 10.1186/gb-2008-9-2-r33. Epub 2008 Feb 15.

Functional protein divergence in the evolution of Homo sapiens.

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  • 1Research Unit on Biomedical Informatics, Experimental and Health Science Department, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, 08003, Spain.



Protein-coding regions in a genome evolve by sequence divergence and gene gain and loss, altering the gene content of the organism. However, it is not well understood how this has given rise to the enormous diversity of metazoa present today.


To obtain a global view of human genomic evolution, we quantify the divergence of proteins by functional category at different evolutionary distances from human.


This analysis highlights some general systems-level characteristics of human evolution: regulatory processes, such as signal transducers, transcription factors and receptors, have a high degree of plasticity, while core processes, such as metabolism, transport and protein synthesis, are largely conserved. Additionally, this study reveals a dynamic picture of selective forces at short, medium and long evolutionary timescales. Certain functional categories, such as 'development' and 'organogenesis', exhibit temporal patterns of sequence divergence in eukaryotes relative to human. This framework for a grammar of human evolution supports previously postulated theories of robustness and evolvability.

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