Throughout evolution, new transcription factors (TFs) emerge by gene duplication, promoting growth and rewiring of transcriptional networks. How TF duplicates diverge was studied in a few cases only. To provide a genome-scale view, we considered the set of budding yeast TFs classified as whole-genome duplication (WGD)-retained paralogs (~35% of all specific TFs). Using high-resolution profiling, we find that ~60% of paralogs evolved differential binding preferences. We show that this divergence results primarily from variations outside the DNA binding domains (DBDs), while DBD preferences remain largely conserved. Analysis of non-WGD orthologs revealed uneven splitting of ancestral preferences between duplicates, and the preferential acquiring of new targets by the least conserved paralog (biased sub/neo-functionalization). Interactions between paralogs were rare, and, when present, occurred through weak competition for DNA-binding or dependency between dimer-forming paralogs We discuss the implications of our findings for the evolutionary design of transcriptional networks.
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