The Evolution of Transcriptional Regulation in Eukaryotes

G. A. Wray
2003 Molecular biology and evolution  
Gene expression is central to the genotype-phenotype relationship in all organisms, and it is an important component of the genetic basis for evolutionary change in diverse aspects of phenotype. However, the evolution of transcriptional regulation remains understudied and poorly understood. Here we review the evolutionary dynamics of promoter, or cisregulatory, sequences and the evolutionary mechanisms that shape them. Existing evidence indicates that populations harbor extensive genetic
more » ... sive genetic variation in promoter sequences, that a substantial fraction of this variation has consequences for both biochemical and organismal phenotype, and that some of this functional variation is sorted by selection. As with protein-coding sequences, rates and patterns of promoter sequence evolution differ considerably among loci and among clades for reasons that are not well understood. Studying the evolution of transcriptional regulation poses empirical and conceptual challenges beyond those typically encountered in analyses of coding sequence evolution: promoter organization is much less regular than that of coding sequences, and sequences required for the transcription of each locus reside at multiple other loci in the genome. Because of the strong context-dependence of transcriptional regulation, sequence inspection alone provides limited information about promoter function. Understanding the functional consequences of sequence differences among promoters generally requires biochemical and in vivo functional assays. Despite these challenges, important insights have already been gained into the evolution of transcriptional regulation, and the pace of discovery is accelerating. Theoretical Arguments: Why Promoters Ought to Contribute to Phenotypic Evolution Before direct evidence was available, a few far-sighted biologists argued on the basis of first principles that changes in gene expression should constitute an important part of the genetic basis for phenotypic change (Jacob and Monod
doi:10.1093/molbev/msg140 pmid:12777501 fatcat:zxbivtxbczbhhft5t3iyspf3mm