There Can Be Only One

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Science  07 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6171, pp. 623-624
DOI: 10.1126/science.1250348

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Gene duplications are a key source of genetic novelty during evolution. This is especially true of transcription factors in land plants (1). Duplication of a transcription factor followed by the acquisition of changes can lead to establishment of a new regulatory network. The presence of duplicate copies allows mutations to accumulate in one copy without affecting the regulation of the downstream targets. However, some transcription factors are not members of large families but are present as single-copy or low-copy genes despite having essential roles in growth and development. How do such factors evolve new DNA binding specificities without negative effects that would be selected against? On page 645 of this issue, Sayou et al. (2) show how one such transcription factor, LEAFY (LFY), evolved novel binding affinities.