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Annu Rev Microbiol. 2004;58:119-42.

Selection for gene clustering by tandem duplication.

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Section of Microbiology, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.


In prokaryotic genomes, related genes are frequently clustered in operons and higher-order arrangements that reflect functional context. Organization emerges despite rearrangements that constantly shuffle gene and operon order. Evidence is presented that the tandem duplication of related genes acts as a driving evolutionary force in the origin and maintenance of clusters. Gene amplification can be viewed as a dynamic and reversible regulatory mechanism that facilitates adaptation to variable environments. Clustered genes confer selective benefits via their ability to be coamplified. During evolution, rearrangements that bring together related genes can be selected if they increase the fitness of the organism in which they reside. Similarly, the benefits of gene amplification can prevent the dispersal of existing clusters. Examples of frequent and spontaneous amplification of large genomic fragments are provided. The possibility is raised that tandem gene duplication works in concert with horizontal gene transfer as interrelated evolutionary forces for gene clustering.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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