Abstract

Gene duplication is seen as a major source of structural and functional divergence in genome evolution. Under the conventional models of sub or neofunctionalization, functional changes arise in one of the duplicates after duplication. However, we suggest here that the presence of a duplicated gene can result in functional changes to its interacting partners. We explore this hypothesis by in silico evolution of a heterodimer when one member of the interacting pair is duplicated. We examine how a range of selection pressures and protein structures leads to differential patterns of evolutionary divergence. We find that a surprising number of distinct evolutionary trajectories can be observed even in a simple three member system. Further, we observe that selection to correct dosage imbalance can affect the evolution of the initial function in several unexpected ways. For example, if a duplicate is under selective pressure to avoid binding its original binding partner, this can lead to changes in the binding interface of a nonduplicated interacting partner to exclude the duplicate. Hence, independent of the fate of the duplicate, its presence can impact how the original function operates. Additionally, we introduce a conceptual framework to describe how interacting partners cope with dosage imbalance after duplication. Contextualizing our results within this framework reveals that the evolutionary path taken by a duplicate’s interacting partners is highly stochastic in nature. Consequently, the fate of duplicate genes may not only be controlled by their own ability to accumulate mutations but also by how interacting partners cope with them.

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