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PLoS Comput Biol. 2011 Nov;7(11):e1002275. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002275. Epub 2011 Nov 17.

Gene expression divergence is coupled to evolution of DNA structure in coding regions.

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  • 1School of Information Science and Technology, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China.


Sequence changes in coding region and regulatory region of the gene itself (cis) determine most of gene expression divergence between closely related species. But gene expression divergence between yeast species is not correlated with evolution of primary nucleotide sequence. This indicates that other factors in cis direct gene expression divergence. Here, we studied the contribution of DNA three-dimensional structural evolution as cis to gene expression divergence. We found that the evolution of DNA structure in coding regions and gene expression divergence are correlated in yeast. Similar result was also observed between Drosophila species. DNA structure is associated with the binding of chromatin remodelers and histone modifiers to DNA sequences in coding regions, which influence RNA polymerase II occupancy that controls gene expression level. We also found that genes with similar DNA structures are involved in the same biological process and function. These results reveal the previously unappreciated roles of DNA structure as cis-effects in gene expression.

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