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Evolution of Gene Regulatory Networks


In the past few decades the fields of Genetics, Evolution, and Development have converged to begin to understand the relationship between genotype and phenotype or, more simply, how an organisms genes are used to build its body. A central finding in this research is that genes do not typically act alone, but rather act as parts of Gene Regulatory Networks (GRNs).  Early in development regulatory genes turn on, interact with each other, and act to regulate the expression of other genes. These lower level genes integrate the signals from the first set and turn on or off structural genes, genes that can change cellular structures and functions.  The entire set of these interactions is a Gene Regulatory Network. Changes to GRNs drive evolution. The nature of GRN regulation is such that small changes can have subtle or massive effects, depending on the type of change and level of regulatory hierarchy. By studying the ways genes within GRNs interact,