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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e34935. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034935. Epub 2012 Apr 18.

A selection index for gene expression evolution and its application to the divergence between humans and chimpanzees.

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School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom.


The importance of gene regulation in animal evolution is a matter of long-standing interest, but measuring the impact of selection on gene expression has proven a challenge. Here, we propose a selection index of gene expression as a straightforward method for assessing the mode and strength of selection operating on gene expression levels. The index is based on the widely used McDonald-Kreitman test and requires the estimation of four quantities: the within-species and between-species expression variances as well as the sequence heterozygosity and divergence of neutrally evolving sequences. We apply the method to data from human and chimpanzee lymphoblastoid cell lines and show that gene expression is in general under strong stabilizing selection. We also demonstrate how the same framework can be used to estimate the proportion of adaptive gene expression evolution.

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