Publication: De Novo Evolution of Complex, Global and Hierarchical Gene Regulatory Mechanisms

Recent paper by Dafyd Jenkins and myself, De Novo Evolution of Complex, Global and Hierarchical Gene Regulatory Mechanisms, has now been published in the Journal of Molecular Evolution, Volume 71, Number 2, p128-140. We have paid for Open Access because we are very pleased with this work. This is the last paper from Dafyd’s PhD so more work in this area now depends on further funding!

Abstract

Gene regulatory networks exhibit complex, hierarchical features such as global regulation and network motifs. There is much debate about whether the evolutionary origins of such features are the results of adaptation, or the by-products of non-adaptive processes of DNA replication. The lack of availability of gene regulatory networks of ancestor species on evolutionary timescales makes this a particularly difficult problem to resolve. Digital organisms, however, can be used to provide a complete evolutionary record of lineages. We use a biologically realistic evolutionary model that includes gene expression, regulation, metabolism and biosynthesis, to investigate the evolution of complex function in gene regulatory networks. We discover that: (i) network architecture and complexity evolve in response to environmental complexity, (ii) global gene regulation is selected for in complex environments, (iii) complex, inter-connected, hierarchical structures evolve in stages, with energy regulation preceding stress responses, and stress responses preceding growth rate adaptations and (iv) robustness of evolved models to mutations depends on hierarchical level: energy regulation and stress responses tend not to be robust to mutations, whereas growth rate adaptations are more robust and non-lethal when mutated. These results highlight the adaptive and incremental evolution of complex biological networks, and the value and potential of studying realistic in silico evolutionary systems as a way of understanding living systems.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s