Gene duplication can impart fragility, not robustness, in the yeast protein interaction network

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Science  10 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6325, pp. 630-634
DOI: 10.1126/science.aai7685

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Robustness of protein networks

It is thought that gene duplication helps cells maintain genetic robustness, but this seems not to be the whole story. Diss et al. investigated the fate of protein-protein interactions among duplicated genes in yeast. Some interacting duplicates evolved mutual dependence, resulting in a more fragile system. This finding helps us understand the evolutionary trajectories of gene duplications and how seemingly redundant genes can increase the complexity of protein interaction networks.

Science, this issue p. 630


The maintenance of duplicated genes is thought to protect cells from genetic perturbations, but the molecular basis of this robustness is largely unknown. By measuring the interaction of yeast proteins with their partners in wild-type cells and in cells lacking a paralog, we found that 22 out of 56 paralog pairs compensate for the lost interactions. An equivalent number of pairs exhibit the opposite behavior and require each other’s presence for maintaining their interactions. These dependent paralogs generally interact physically, regulate each other’s abundance, and derive from ancestral self-interacting proteins. This reveals that gene duplication may actually increase mutational fragility instead of robustness in a large number of cases.

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