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What are the evolution operators, meaning allowed actions on the DNA sequence that encodes a protein.

I assume all evolution of genes is a result of duplication errors. So an answer could look somewhat like this: duplication of gene into two identical ones, omitting of nucleotide, addition of nucleotide and so on.

And some followup questions:

  1. Does this mean that originally there were very few genes and they were very short?
  2. If so - how few? How short?
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    $\begingroup$ It is incorrect to assume that all evolution of proteins is a result of duplication errors. Sequences can be changed in situ as well. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Commented Jun 9, 2013 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ Also, evolution does not really act on proteins but on genes. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Commented Jun 9, 2013 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ @terdon and all other base sequences that have any biological function like regulatory elements. I'm not sure how this question could be answered as it seems to be based on some false premises. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2013 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @MadScientist yes, I mean that evolution acts at the nucleotide rather than the amino acid level but felt it would be better understood by the OP if I said "genes". $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Commented Jun 9, 2013 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ The question is simply what kind of errors does the DNA replication machine do (or other mechanism with which evolution occurs). I called it protein sequences, but of course I mean the DNA that encodes a certain protein. I rephrased for clarity. $\endgroup$
    – Uri
    Commented Jun 9, 2013 at 18:35

2 Answers 2

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An old microbial geneticists' adage is: anything that can happen will happen, and you just need to find a way to select for what you are seeking.

A look at the Wikipedia page on mutation might be instructive.

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  • $\begingroup$ Looks like this is what I've been looking for. $\endgroup$
    – Uri
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 20:26
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The most frequent mechanisms are

  • Intragenic mutations: when existing genes mutate modifying gene function.
  • Gene duplication: leads to related genes in a single cell. A gene duplicates and then as two copies are available, one is free to change
  • Segment shuffling: leads to hybridisation of different DNA segments.
  • Horizontal transfer is transfer of DNA from one cell to another
  • Transduction: infection of cells by viruses or other intracellular pathogens where their DNA can integrate into the genome

You are incorrect to say all evolution occurs due to duplication. Your follow up questions are too vague. Genes can become larger or smaller, but yes as they increase so does their diversity.

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  • $\begingroup$ Can you please clarify the following: What exactly are intragenic mutations? What exactly is their mechanism? What is the mechanism for complete gene duplication and segment shuffling? Why didn't you mention single nucleotide errors by the replication process? $\endgroup$
    – Uri
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 20:23

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