Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Convergent evolution of gene circuits


Convergent evolution is a potent indicator of optimal design. We show here that convergent evolution occurs in genetic networks. Specifically, we show that multiple types of transcriptional regulation circuitry in Escherichia coli and the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae have evolved independently and not by duplication of one or a few ancestral circuits.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Circuit duplication is rare in yeast and E. coli.


  1. Futuyma, D.J. Evolutionary Biology 3rd edn. (Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Massachusetts, 1998).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Stewart, C.-B., Schilling, J.W. & Wilson, A.C. Nature 330, 401–404 (1987).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Kornegay, J.R., Schilling, J.W. & Wilson, A.C. Mol. Biol. Evol. 11, 921–928 (1994).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Chen, L., DeVries, A.L. & Cheng, C.-H.C. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 94, 3817–3822 (1997).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Lee, T.I. et al. Science 298, 799–804 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Milo, R. et al. Science 298, 824–827 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Shen-Orr, S.S., Milo, R., Mangan, S. & Alon, U. Nat. Genet. 31, 64–68 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Lynch, M. & Conery, J.S. Science 290, 1151–1155 (2000).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Altschul, S.F. et al. Nucleic Acids Res. 25, 3389–3402 (1997).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Wagner, A. Mol. Biol. Evol. 18, 1283–1292 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Dermitzakis, E.T. & Clark, A.G. Mol. Biol. Evol. 19, 1114–1121 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Wagner, A. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 97, 6579–6584 (2000).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Stone, J.R. & Wray, G.A. Mol. Biol. Evol. 18, 1764–1770 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Ferea, T.L., Botstein, D., Brown, P.O. & Rosenzweig, R.F. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 96, 9721–9726 (1999).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Gould, S.J. Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (W.W. Norton, New York, 1989).

    Google Scholar 

Download references


G.C.C. is supported by the US Department of Energy's Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowship program, administered by the Krell Institute. A.W. would like to thank the US National Institutes of Health and the Santa Fe Institute for their support.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andreas Wagner.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Conant, G., Wagner, A. Convergent evolution of gene circuits. Nat Genet 34, 264–266 (2003).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing