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PLoS Genet. 2012 Jan;8(1):e1002432. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002432. Epub 2012 Jan 19.

Tempo and mode in evolution of transcriptional regulation.

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Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


Perennial questions of evolutionary biology can be applied to gene regulatory systems using the abundance of experimental data addressing gene regulation in a comparative context. What is the tempo (frequency, rate) and mode (way, mechanism) of transcriptional regulatory evolution? Here we synthesize the results of 230 experiments performed on insects and nematodes in which regulatory DNA from one species was used to drive gene expression in another species. General principles of regulatory evolution emerge. Gene regulatory evolution is widespread and accumulates with genetic divergence in both insects and nematodes. Divergence in cis is more common than divergence in trans. Coevolution between cis and trans shows a particular increase over greater evolutionary timespans, especially in sex-specific gene regulation. Despite these generalities, the evolution of gene regulation is gene- and taxon-specific. The congruence of these conclusions with evidence from other types of experiments suggests that general principles are discoverable, and a unified view of the tempo and mode of regulatory evolution may be achievable.

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