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Brain Res Bull. 2005 Sep 15;66(4-6):495-509. Epub 2005 Apr 18.

Recasting developmental evolution in terms of genetic pathway and network evolution ... and the implications for comparative biology.

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  • 1BioEssays Editorial Office, Cambridge, UK.


The morphological features of complex organisms are the outcomes of developmental processes. Developmental processes, in turn, reflect the genetic networks that underlie them. Differences in morphology must ultimately, therefore, reflect differences in the underlying genetic networks. A mutation that affects a developmental process does so by affecting either a gene whose product acts as an upstream controlling element, an intermediary connecting link, or as a downstream output of the network that governs the trait's development. Although the immense diversity of gene networks in the animal and plant kingdoms would seem to preclude any general "rules" of network evolution, the material discussed here suggests that the patterns of genetic pathway and network evolution actually fall into a number of discrete modes. The potential utility of this conceptual framework in reconstructing instances of developmental evolution and for comparative neurobiology will be discussed.

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