Deep homology

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pax6 alterations result in similar phenotypic alterations of eye morphology and function across a wide range of species.

In evolutionary developmental biology, the concept of deep homology is used to describe cases where growth and differentiation processes are governed by genetic mechanisms that are homologous and deeply conserved across a wide range of species.[1]

Textbook examples common to metazoa include the homeotic genes that control differentiation along major body axes, and pax genes (especially PAX6) involved in the development of the eye and other sensory organs. The deep homology applies across widely separated groups, such as in the eyes of mammals and the structurally quite different compound eyes of insects.[1]

In early 2010, a team at The University of Texas at Austin led by Edward Marcotte developed an algorithm that identifies deeply homologous genetic modules in unicellular organisms, plants, and non-human animals based on phenotypes (such as traits and developmental defects). The technique aligns phenotypes across organisms based on orthology (a type of homology) of genes involved in the phenotypes.[2][3]


  1. ^ a b Carroll, Sean B. (2006). Endless Forms Most Beautiful. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. pp. 66–69. ISBN 0-297-85094-6. 
  2. ^ Zimmer, Carl. "The Search for Genes Leads to Unexpected Places", The New York Times, New York, April 26, 2010.
  3. ^ McGary KL, Park TJ, Woods JO, Cha HJ, Wallingford JB, Marcotte EM (April 2010). "Systematic discovery of nonobvious human disease models through orthologous phenotypes" (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107 (14): 6544–9. doi:10.1073/pnas.0910200107. PMC 2851946. PMID 20308572. 

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