Beyond Genomics: Studying Evolution with Gene Coexpression Networks

Trends Plant Sci. 2017 Apr;22(4):298-307. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2016.12.011. Epub 2017 Jan 23.


Understanding how genomes change as organisms become more complex is a central question in evolution. Molecular evolutionary studies typically correlate the appearance of genes and gene families with the emergence of biological pathways and morphological features. While such approaches are of great importance to understand how organisms evolve, they are also limited, as functionally related genes work together in contexts of dynamic gene networks. Since functionally related genes are often transcriptionally coregulated, gene coexpression networks present a resource to study the evolution of biological pathways. In this opinion article, we discuss recent developments in this field and how coexpression analyses can be merged with existing genomic approaches to transfer functional knowledge between species to study the appearance or extension of pathways.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Regulatory Networks / genetics*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks / physiology
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Phylogeny