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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2013 Feb;24(2):83-94. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2012.12.008. Epub 2013 Jan 3.

Impact of gene gains, losses and duplication modes on the origin and diversification of vertebrates.

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Departament de Genètica, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.


The study of the evolutionary origin of vertebrates has been linked to the study of genome duplications since Susumo Ohno suggested that the successful diversification of vertebrate innovations was facilitated by two rounds of whole-genome duplication (2R-WGD) in the stem vertebrate. Since then, studies on the functional evolution of many genes duplicated in the vertebrate lineage have provided the grounds to support experimentally this link. This article reviews cases of gene duplications derived either from the 2R-WGD or from local gene duplication events in vertebrates, analyzing their impact on the evolution of developmental innovations. We analyze how gene regulatory networks can be rewired by the activity of transposable elements after genome duplications, discuss how different mechanisms of duplication might affect the fate of duplicated genes, and how the loss of gene duplicates might influence the fate of surviving paralogs. We also discuss the evolutionary relationships between gene duplication and alternative splicing, in particular in the vertebrate lineage. Finally, we discuss the role that the 2R-WGD might have played in the evolution of vertebrate developmental gene networks, paying special attention to those related to vertebrate key features such as neural crest cells, placodes, and the complex tripartite brain. In this context, we argue that current evidences points that the 2R-WGD may not be linked to the origin of vertebrate innovations, but to their subsequent diversification in a broad variety of complex structures and functions that facilitated the successful transition from peaceful filter-feeding non-vertebrate ancestors to voracious vertebrate predators.

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