UMMS Affiliation

Program in Systems Biololgy; Program in Gene Function and Expression; Program in Molecular Medicine

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Document Type



Caenorhabditis elegans; Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins; Insulin; Gene Expression


Genetics and Genomics | Systems Biology


Gene families expand by gene duplication and resulting paralogs diverge through mutation. Functional diversification can include neo-functionalization as well as sub-functionalization of ancestral functions. In addition, redundancy in which multiple genes fulfill overlapping functions is often maintained. Here, we use the family of 40 Caenorhabditis elegans insulins to gain insight into the balance between specificity and redundancy. The insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IIS) pathway comprises a single receptor, DAF-2. To date, no single insulin-like peptide recapitulates all DAF-2-associated phenotypes, likely due to redundancy between insulin-like genes. To provide a first-level annotation of potential patterns of redundancy, we comprehensively delineate the spatiotemporal and conditional expression of all 40 insulins in living animals. We observe extensive dynamics in expression that can explain the lack of simple patterns of pair-wise redundancy. We propose a model in which gene families evolve to attain differential alliances in different tissues and in response to a range of environmental stresses.

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Copyright 2013, Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. This article is distributed exclusively by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press for the first six months after the full-issue publication date (see After six months, it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License), as described at

DOI of Published Version



Genome Res. 2013 Jun;23(6):954-65. doi: 10.1101/gr.150466.112. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Genome research

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License