Seleção evolucionária entre modos alternativos de regulação de gene

sábado, maio 23, 2009

Evolutionary selection between alternative modes of gene regulation

Ulrich Gerlanda,1 and Terence Hwab,1

+Author Affiliations

aInstitute for Theoretical Physics, Arnold Sommerfeld Center for Theoretical Physics, Theresienstrasse 37, 80333 Munich, Germany; and

bCenter for Theoretical Biological Physics and Department of Physics, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0374

Edited by Curtis G. Callan, Jr., Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, and approved April 2, 2009 (received for review August 27, 2008)


Microorganisms employ a wealth of gene regulatory mechanisms to adjust their growth programs to variations in the environment. It was pointed out long ago [Savageau M (1977) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 74: 5647–5651] that the particular mode of gene regulation employed may be correlated with the “demand” on the regulated gene, i.e., how frequently the gene product is needed in its natural habitat. An evolutionary “use-it-or-lose-it” principle was proposed to govern the choice of gene regulatory strategies. Here, we examine quantitatively the forces selecting for and against two opposing modes of gene regulation, in the context of an evolutionary model that takes genetic drift, mutation, and time-dependent selection into account. We consider the effect of time-dependent selection, with periods of strong selection alternating with periods of neutral evolution. Using a variety of analytical methods, we find the effective population size and the typical time scale of environmental variations to be key parameters determining the fitness advantage of the different modes of regulation. Our results support Savageau's use-it-or-lose-it principle for small populations with long time scales of environmental variations and support a complementary “wear-and-tear” principle for the opposite situation.

transcription control design principles molecular evolution time-dependent selection


1To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: or

Author contributions: U.G. and T.H. designed research, performed research, and wrote the paper.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.


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