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Nat Genet. 2008 Mar;40(3):346-50. doi: 10.1038/ng.77. Epub 2008 Feb 17.

Regulatory changes underlying expression differences within and between Drosophila species.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Differences in gene expression are an important source of phenotypic variation, and can be caused by changes in cis and/or trans regulation. cis-regulatory variants alter allele-specific expression, whereas trans-regulatory variants influence expression of both alleles in a diploid cell. Because of this difference, we hypothesize that natural selection may favor one type of change over the other. Here, we investigate contributions of cis- and trans-regulatory changes to variable intra- and interspecific gene expression using four strains of Drosophila melanogaster, three strains of D. simulans and a total of 78 genes. We show that cis-regulatory changes account for a greater proportion of the expression differences observed between rather than within species. These data are inconsistent with a neutral model assuming equal probabilities of fixation for cis- and trans-regulatory polymorphisms, suggesting that natural selection influences the molecular mechanisms underlying divergent gene expression. Specifically, cis-regulatory changes seem to accumulate preferentially over time.

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