Although the understanding of gene regulation networks and their importance has grown, how these complex pathways evolved has been poorly understood. New research in the April 11 Nature Genetics suggests that during evolution gene duplication and subsequent divergence could have been responsible for up to 90% of the interactions seen in gene regulatory networks.

Sarah A. Teichmann and M. Madan Babu at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, UK, looked for homologous genes in known genetic networks in Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae to discover instances of duplication. Teichmann said that their approach to identifying and quantifying effects of duplication was different from previous attempts in that they were looking at both transcription factors and target genes together. They had captured both recent and distant evolutionary relationships by using information about structural domains in homologous genes, using a hidden Markov model database called SUPERFAMILY.

“The general principle behind this is...

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