Like everything in biology, the genome is a product of evolution. In our own history, mutations that duplicate genes have generated extensive multigene families and classes, including a great diversity of transcriptional regulators involved in development of cells, tissues and organs. For example, two complete genome duplication events occurred in early vertebrate evolution (known as 2R), a third genome duplication occurred at the base of teleost fish (3R), and there were extensive tandem gene duplications in placental mammals. What role did these events play in animal evolution? How do newly duplicate genes diverge in function? Why do tandem gene duplicates evolve in a different way to whole genome duplicates? The proposed research programme aims to resolve these questions. The long-term functional consequences of duplication will be examined by examining how the spectrum of target genes differs, or overlaps, between transcription factors known to have duplicated in the 2R and 3R events. To understand the earliest stages of duplicate gene evolution gene sequences and gene expression will be studied in a spectrum of animals descendent from much more recent genome duplications, including several freshwater fish and desert-living rodents. The contrast between whole genome and tandem gene duplication will be examined in parallel, through genomic and protein-engineering studies of novel homeobox genes that arose in mammalian evolution. The programme of research is novel and will create physical and knowledge-based resources relevant to genomics, evolution, development, physiology and biomedical genetics.
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