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PLoS Genet. 2009 Dec;5(12):e1000781. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000781. Epub 2009 Dec 24.

Increased expression and protein divergence in duplicate genes is associated with morphological diversification.

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Gene Discovery Research Group, RIKEN Plant Science Center, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.


The differentiation of both gene expression and protein function is thought to be important as a mechanism of the functionalization of duplicate genes. However, it has not been addressed whether expression or protein divergence of duplicate genes is greater in those genes that have undergone functionalization compared with those that have not. We examined a total of 492 paralogous gene pairs associated with morphological diversification in a plant model organism (Arabidopsis thaliana). Classifying these paralogous gene pairs into high, low, and no morphological diversification groups, based on knock-out data, we found that the divergence rate of both gene expression and protein sequences were significantly higher in either high or low morphological diversification groups compared with those in the no morphological diversification group. These results strongly suggest that the divergence of both expression and protein sequence are important sources for morphological diversification of duplicate genes. Although both mechanisms are not mutually exclusive, our analysis suggested that changes of expression pattern play the minor role (33%-41%) and that changes of protein sequence play the major role (59%-67%) in morphological diversification. Finally, we examined to what extent duplicate genes are associated with expression or protein divergence exerting morphological diversification at the whole-genome level. Interestingly, duplicate genes randomly chosen from A. thaliana had not experienced expression or protein divergence that resulted in morphological diversification. These results indicate that most duplicate genes have experienced minor functionalization.

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