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Genetics. 2000 Nov;156(3):1249-57.

Phylogenetic analysis of T-Box genes demonstrates the importance of amphioxus for understanding evolution of the vertebrate genome.

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Lewis Thomas Laboratory, Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA.


The duplication of preexisting genes has played a major role in evolution. To understand the evolution of genetic complexity it is important to reconstruct the phylogenetic history of the genome. A widely held view suggests that the vertebrate genome evolved via two successive rounds of whole-genome duplication. To test this model we have isolated seven new T-box genes from the primitive chordate amphioxus. We find that each amphioxus gene generally corresponds to two or three vertebrate counterparts. A phylogenetic analysis of these genes supports the idea that a single whole-genome duplication took place early in vertebrate evolution, but cannot exclude the possibility that a second duplication later took place. The origin of additional paralogs evident in this and other gene families could be the result of subsequent, smaller-scale chromosomal duplications. Our findings highlight the importance of amphioxus as a key organism for understanding evolution of the vertebrate genome.

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