Promoter evolution of mammalian gene duplicates

Evgeny Fraimovitch, Tzachi Hagai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Gene duplication is thought to be a central process in evolution to gain new functions. The factors that dictate gene retention following duplication as well paralog gene divergence in sequence, expression and function have been extensively studied. However, relatively little is known about the evolution of promoter regions of gene duplicates and how they influence gene duplicate divergence. Here, we focus on promoters of paralog genes, comparing their similarity in sequence, in the sets of transcription factors (TFs) that bind them, and in their overall promoter architecture. Results: We observe that promoters of recent duplications display higher sequence similarity between them and that sequence similarity rapidly declines between promoters of more ancient paralogs. In contrast, similarity in cis-regulation, as measured by the set of TFs that bind promoters of both paralogs, does not simply decrease with time from duplication and is instead related to promoter architecture—paralogs with CpG Islands (CGIs) in their promoters share a greater fraction of TFs, while CGI-less paralogs are more divergent in their TF binding set. Focusing on recent duplication events and partitioning them by their duplication mechanism enables us to uncover promoter properties associated with gene retention, as well as to characterize the evolution of promoters of newly born genes: In recent retrotransposition-mediated duplications, we observe asymmetry in cis-regulation of paralog pairs: Retrocopy genes are lowly expressed and their promoters are bound by fewer TFs and are depleted of CGIs, in comparison with the original gene copy. Furthermore, looking at recent segmental duplication regions in primates enable us to compare successful retentions versus loss of duplicates, showing that duplicate retention is associated with fewer TFs and with CGI-less promoter architecture. Conclusions: In this work, we profiled promoters of gene duplicates and their inter-paralog divergence. We also studied how their characteristics are associated with duplication time and duplication mechanism, as well as with the fate of these duplicates. These results underline the importance of cis-regulatory mechanisms in shaping the evolution of new genes and their fate following duplication.

Original languageEnglish
Article number80
JournalBMC Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Cis-regulation
  • CpG Islands
  • Gene duplication
  • Metazoan promoters
  • Promoter evolution

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Structural Biology
  • Physiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Biotechnology
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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