The evolution of multimeric protein assemblages

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61 Scopus citations


Although the mechanisms by which complex cellular features evolve constitute one of the great unsolved problems of evolutionary biology, it is clear that the emergence of new protein-protein interactions, often accompanied by the diversification of duplicate genes, is involved. Using information on the levels of protein multimerization in major phylogenetic groups as a guide to the patterns that must be explained and relying on results from population-genetic theory to define the relative plausibility of alternative evolutionary pathways, a framework for understanding the evolution of dimers is developed. The resultant theory demonstrates that the likelihoods of alternative pathways for the emergence of protein complexes depend strongly on the effective population size. Nonetheless, it is equally clear that further advancements in this area will require comparative studies on the fitness consequences of alternative monomeric and dimeric proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1353-1366
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Complex adaptation
  • Dimer
  • Genome evolution
  • Heteromer
  • Molecular evolution
  • Random genetic drift

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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