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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2013 Mar 1;5(3):a008649. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a008649.

Evolution of the animal apoptosis network.

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  • 1Program on Bioinformatics and Systems Biology, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


The number of available eukaryotic genomes has expanded to the point where we can evaluate the complete evolutionary history of many cellular processes. Such analyses for the apoptosis regulatory networks suggest that this network already existed in the ancestor of the entire animal kingdom (Metazoa) in a form more complex than in some popular animal model organisms. This supports the growing realization that regulatory networks do not necessarily evolve from simple to complex and that the relative simplicity of these networks in nematodes and insects does not represent an ancestral state, but is the result of secondary simplifications. Network evolution is not a process of monotonous increase in complexity, but a dynamic process that includes lineage-specific gene losses and expansions, protein domain reshuffling, and emergence/reemergence of similar protein architectures by parallel evolution. Studying the evolution of such networks is a challenging yet interesting subject for research and investigation, and such studies on the apoptosis networks provide us with interesting hints of how these networks, critical in so many human diseases, have developed.

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