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Regulators evolve faster than genes

Mutations in regulatory sequences may be the main drivers of species divergence

Charles Q. Choi
The DNA sequences that help regulate genes evolve far more quickly than the genes they control, according to a study published this week in Science. The findings suggest that evolutionary divergence between species may be driven mostly by mutations in these sequences. "You look at humans and chimps, and we're 98.5 percent identical in our gene sequences, for instance, but we're very different physically," Michael Snyder of Yale University, senior author of the study, told The Scientist. "We're suggesting that these differences between species -- and not just in mammals, but in general -- are due more to changes in gene regulation and not the genes themselves." Transcription factors turn genes on and off by binding to distinct regulatory sites along the genome. The researchers identified and compared the binding sites of two transcription factors in three closely related species of Saccharomyces yeast, using chromatin immunoprecipitation and microarray...

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