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Nat Rev Genet. 2009 Feb;10(2):141-8. doi: 10.1038/nrg2499. Epub 2009 Jan 13.

The evolution of hierarchical gene regulatory networks.

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  • 1Department of Paleobiology, MRC-121, National Museum of Natural History, PO BOX 37012, Washington, Washington DC 20013-7012, USA.


Comparative developmental evidence indicates that reorganizations in developmental gene regulatory networks (GRNs) underlie evolutionary changes in animal morphology, including body plans. We argue here that the nature of the evolutionary alterations that arise from regulatory changes depends on the hierarchical position of the change within a GRN. This concept cannot be accomodated by microevolutionary nor macroevolutionary theory. It will soon be possible to investigate these ideas experimentally, by assessing the effects of GRN changes on morphological evolution.

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