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Nat Genet. 2004 May;36(5):492-6. Epub 2004 Apr 11.

Gene regulatory network growth by duplication.

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MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QH, UK.


We are beginning to elucidate transcriptional regulatory networks on a large scale and to understand some of the structural principles of these networks, but the evolutionary mechanisms that form these networks are still mostly unknown. Here we investigate the role of gene duplication in network evolution. Gene duplication is the driving force for creating new genes in genomes: at least 50% of prokaryotic genes and over 90% of eukaryotic genes are products of gene duplication. The transcriptional interactions in regulatory networks consist of multiple components, and duplication processes that generate new interactions would need to be more complex. We define possible duplication scenarios and show that they formed the regulatory networks of the prokaryote Escherichia coli and the eukaryote Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Gene duplication has had a key role in network evolution: more than one-third of known regulatory interactions were inherited from the ancestral transcription factor or target gene after duplication, and roughly one-half of the interactions were gained during divergence after duplication. In addition, we conclude that evolution has been incremental, rather than making entire regulatory circuits or motifs by duplication with inheritance of interactions.

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