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J Evol Biol. 2010 Nov;23(11):2410-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.02101.x. Epub 2010 Sep 6.

Duplicate retention in signalling proteins and constraints from network dynamics.

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Systems Biology Program, College of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK.


Duplications are a major driving force behind evolution. Most duplicates are believed to fix through genetic drift, but it is not clear whether this process affects all duplications equally or whether there are certain gene families that are expected to show neutral expansions under certain circumstances. Here, we analyse the neutrality of duplications in different functional classes of signalling proteins based on their effects on response dynamics. We find that duplications involving intermediary proteins in a signalling network are neutral more often than those involving receptors. Although the fraction of neutral duplications in all functional classes increase with decreasing population size and selective pressure on dynamics, this effect is most pronounced for receptors, indicating a possible expansion of receptors in species with small population size. In line with such an expectation, we found a statistically significant increase in the number of receptors as a fraction of genome size in eukaryotes compared with prokaryotes. Although not confirmative, these results indicate that neutral processes can be a significant factor in shaping signalling networks and affect proteins from different functional classes differently.

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