Need-based up-regulation of protein levels in response to deletion of their duplicate genes

PLoS Biol. 2010 Mar 30;8(3):e1000347. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000347.


Many duplicate genes maintain functional overlap despite divergence over long evolutionary time scales. Deleting one member of a paralogous pair often has no phenotypic effect, unless its paralog is also deleted. It has been suggested that this functional compensation might be mediated by active up-regulation of expression of a gene in response to deletion of its paralog. However, it is not clear how prevalent such paralog responsiveness is, nor whether it is hardwired or dependent on feedback from environmental conditions. Here, we address these questions at the genomic scale using high-throughput flow cytometry of single-cell protein levels in differentially labeled cocultures of wild-type and paralog-knockout Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains. We find that only a modest fraction of proteins (22 out of 202) show significant up-regulation to deletion of their duplicate genes. However, these paralog-responsive proteins match almost exclusively duplicate pairs whose overlapping function is required for growth. Moreover, media conditions that add or remove requirements for the function of a duplicate gene pair specifically eliminate or create paralog responsiveness. Together, our results suggest that paralog responsiveness in yeast is need-based: it appears only in conditions in which the gene function is required. Physiologically, such need-based responsiveness could provide an adaptive mechanism for compensation of genetic, environmental, or stochastic perturbations in protein abundance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environment
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Duplication
  • Genes, Duplicate*
  • Genome, Fungal
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins* / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins* / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation*


  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins