GENETICS. A copy-and-paste gene regulatory network.


C hanges in gene regulatory networks (GRNs) underlie many phenotypic differences between species. However, the mechanisms of GRN evolution are still being debated (1–5). Explaining how GRNs originate, diversify, and maintain their identities despite regulatory element turnover is essential for developing mechanistic explanations for the origin, diversifi cation, and conservation of homologous characters between species. Among the major outstanding questions in GRN evolution is whether individual cis-regulatory elements arise de novo through the gradual accumulation of mutations that increase the regulatory potential of existing DNA or whether cis-regulatory elements originate more rapidly through concerted processes. On page 1083 of this issue, Chuong et al. provide evidence that concerted processes, involving endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), which are remarkably abundant in mammalian genomes, have contributed to the evolution of the regulatory systems that control the mammalian immune system (6). Transposable element (TE)–mediated origination of cis-regulatory elements is an attractive alternative to the de novo appearance of such elements. TEs provide a mechanism to rapidly distribute nearly identical copies of regulatory elements across the genome that can respond to the same input signals (7–9) rather than requiring that each gene in a GRN evolve cis-regulatory

DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf2977

Cite this paper

@article{Lynch2016GENETICSAC, title={GENETICS. A copy-and-paste gene regulatory network.}, author={Vincent J. Lynch}, journal={Science}, year={2016}, volume={351 6277}, pages={1029-30} }