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Nat Genet. 2003 Feb;33(2):138-44. Epub 2003 Jan 27.

Evolution of gene expression in the Drosophila melanogaster subgroup.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, PO Box 208106, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8106, USA.


Little is known about broad patterns of variation and evolution of gene expression during any developmental process. Here we investigate variation in genome-wide gene expression among Drosophila simulans, Drosophila yakuba and four strains of Drosophila melanogaster during a major developmental transition--the start of metamorphosis. Differences in gene activity between these lineages follow a phylogenetic pattern, and 27% of all of the genes in these genomes differ in their developmental gene expression between at least two strains or species. We identify, on a gene-by-gene basis, the evolutionary forces that shape this variation and show that, both within the transcriptional network that controls metamorphosis and across the whole genome, the expression changes of transcription factor genes are relatively stable, whereas those of their downstream targets are more likely to have evolved. Our results demonstrate extensive evolution of developmental gene expression among closely related species.

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