Although the evolution of protein-coding sequences within genomes is well understood, the same cannot be said of the cis-regulatory regions that control transcription. Yet, changes in gene expression are likely to constitute an important component of phenotypic evolution. We simulated the evolution of new transcription factor binding sites via local point mutations. The results indicate that new binding sites appear and become fixed within populations on microevolutionary timescales under an assumption of neutral evolution. Even combinations of two new binding sites evolve very quickly. We predict that local point mutations continually generate considerable genetic variation that is capable of altering gene expression.
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