Diverse Molecular Mechanisms Contribute to Differential Expression of Human Duplicated Genes

Colin J. Shew, Paulina Carmona-Mora, Daniela C. Soto, Mira Mastoras, Elizabeth Roberts, Joseph Rosas, Dhriti Jagannathan, Gulhan Kaya, Henriette O'Geen, Megan Y. Dennis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Emerging evidence links genes within human-specific segmental duplications (HSDs) to traits and diseases unique to our species. Strikingly, despite being nearly identical by sequence (>98.5%), paralogous HSD genes are differentially expressed across human cell and tissue types, though the underlying mechanisms have not been examined. We compared cross-tissue mRNA levels of 75 HSD genes from 30 families between humans and chimpanzees and found expression patterns consistent with relaxed selection on or neofunctionalization of derived paralogs. In general, ancestral paralogs exhibited greatest expression conservation with chimpanzee orthologs, though exceptions suggest certain derived paralogs may retain or supplant ancestral functions. Concordantly, analysis of long-read isoform sequencing data sets from diverse human tissues and cell lines found that about half of derived paralogs exhibited globally lower expression. To understand mechanisms underlying these differences, we leveraged data from human lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) and found no relationship between paralogous expression divergence and post-transcriptional regulation, sequence divergence, or copy-number variation. Considering cis-regulation, we reanalyzed ENCODE data and recovered hundreds of previously unidentified candidate CREs in HSDs. We also generated large-insert ChIP-sequencing data for active chromatin features in an LCL to better distinguish paralogous regions. Some duplicated CREs were sufficient to drive differential reporter activity, suggesting they may contribute to divergent cis-regulation of paralogous genes. This work provides evidence that cis-regulatory divergence contributes to novel expression patterns of recent gene duplicates in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3060-3077
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • gene duplication
  • gene regulation
  • primate evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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