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PLoS Biol. 2010 Mar 9;8(3):e1000329. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000329.

Evolutionary tinkering with conserved components of a transcriptional regulatory network.

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Biotechnology Research Institute, National Research Council, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Gene expression variation between species is a major contributor to phenotypic diversity, yet the underlying flexibility of transcriptional regulatory networks remains largely unexplored. Transcription of the ribosomal regulon is a critical task for all cells; in S. cerevisiae the transcription factors Rap1, Fhl1, Ifh1, and Hmo1 form a multi-subunit complex that controls ribosomal gene expression, while in C. albicans this regulation is under the control of Tbf1 and Cbf1. Here, we analyzed, using full-genome transcription factor mapping, the roles, in both S. cerevisiae and C. albicans, of each orthologous component of this complete set of regulators. We observe dramatic changes in the binding profiles of the generalist regulators Cbf1, Hmo1, Rap1, and Tbf1, while the Fhl1-Ifh1 dimer is the only component involved in ribosomal regulation in both fungi: it activates ribosomal protein genes and rDNA expression in a Tbf1-dependent manner in C. albicans and a Rap1-dependent manner in S. cerevisiae. We show that the transcriptional regulatory network governing the ribosomal expression program of two related yeast species has been massively reshaped in cis and trans. Changes occurred in transcription factor wiring with cellular functions, movements in transcription factor hierarchies, DNA-binding specificity, and regulatory complexes assembly to promote global changes in the architecture of the fungal transcriptional regulatory network.

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