Promoters: Evolution


Evolutionarily conserved promoter elements may direct similar patterns of gene expression in diverse species. Conversely, one of the most important mechanisms for the shaping of new species and new attributes is the evolution of new patterns of gene expression. Strategies aimed at identifying both conserved and evolving promoter elements will be major targets for future study.

Keywords: gene regulation; phenotypic diversity; phylogenetic footpinting; transcription factors; retroposons

Figure 1.

Evolution of a fetal expression pattern for the simian (anthropoid) γ‐globin genes. Phylogenetic reconstructions indicate that the mammalian ancestor that lived 80–100 million years ago (mya) possessed a β‐like globin cluster with five active genes (rectangles) and an upstream locus control region (LCR) depicted here by a circle. Analysis of the expression patterns of the globin genes of extant mammals is consistent with the proposal that in the ancestral mammal, the five genes were expressed as follows: ε (embryonic), γ (embryonic), η (embryonic), δ (postembryonic) and β (postembryonic). A globin cluster related to this ancestral five‐gene cluster has persisted in all extant eutherian mammals (although the cluster has undergone expansion or shrinkage in some species). Strikingly, however, the γ gene homolog is embryonic in all extant nonprimate mammals and also in nonanthropoid primates (galago, tarsier). Recruitment of γ to a fetal expression period occurred between 58 and 40 mya, and most likely involved three events: γ gene duplication, accumulation of promoter and coding nucleotide changes (to allow fetal expression and alter oxygen affinity), and gene conversion of the duplicated γ gene to complete the fetal recruitment of both γ genes. Proof that the fetal recruitment of γ was due to cis changes linked to the promoter region has been documented (TomHon et al., ). Clusters are not drawn to scale.



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Gumucio, Deborah L(Dec 2007) Promoters: Evolution. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005090.pub2]