Old Genes, New Tricks

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For decades, scientists have understood that the process of evolution involves changes in protein-coding genes: mutations can change a gene's instructions, making it code for a protein with a slightly different function.

The modification of gene switches provides another avenue for evolutionary change. Often just a few base pairs long, switches regulate the timing, location, and level of protein expression—without affecting the protein itself. Small changes to switches can produce dramatic outcomes.

The evolution of new physical structures requires new genes.

Evolution frequently reuses old genes in new ways.



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Prud'homme, B., Gompel, N., Rokas, A., Kassner, V. A., Williams, T. M., Yeh, S., True, J. R. & Carroll, S. B. (2006).Repeated morphological evolution through cis-regulatory changes in a pleiotropic gene.Nature, 440, 1050-1053 (subscription required).

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  • Funding

    Funding provided by grant 51006109 from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Precollege Science Education Initiative for Biomedical Research.

APA format:

Genetic Science Learning Center. (2016, March 1) Old Genes, New Tricks. Retrieved February 28, 2024, from https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/basics/newtricks/

CSE format:

Old Genes, New Tricks [Internet]. Salt Lake City (UT): Genetic Science Learning Center; 2016 [cited 2024 Feb 28] Available from https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/basics/newtricks/

Chicago format:

Genetic Science Learning Center. "Old Genes, New Tricks." Learn.Genetics. March 1, 2016. Accessed February 28, 2024. https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/basics/newtricks/.