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Plant Cell. 2010 Jun;22(6):1658-66. doi: 10.1105/tpc.110.075481. Epub 2010 Jun 15.

The evolution of epitype.

Author information

  • Department of Genetics, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA. meagher@uga.edu


The epitype of a single gene or entire genome is determined by cis-linked differences in chromatin structure. I explore the hypothesis that "epitype and associated phenotypes evolve by gene duplication, divergence, and subfunctionalization" parallel to models for the evolution of genotype. This hypothesis is dissected by considering the relationship between epigenetic control and phenotype, the phylogenetic evidence that epitype evolves from ancestral genes following gene duplication, and the possible evolutionary rates of change for different epitypes. Initial supporting arguments for this hypothesis are discussed based on conserved patterns of nucleosome phasing, DNA methylation, and histone variant H2AZ deposition that appear to contribute to the inheritance of epitype in plants and animals. However, patterns of histone modification in recent segmental chromosome duplications are not well conserved. A continued experimental examination of the link between gene phylogeny and epitype and the evolution of epigenetically determined phenotypes is needed to further explore this hypothesis.

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