Regulatory evolution by transcription-factor duplication

Prof. Naama Barkai 

Dept. of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science

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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