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A conceptual history of the “regulatory genome”: From Theodor Boveri to Eric Davidson

Arnone, Maria I., Oliveri, Paola, Martinez, Pedro
Marine genomics 2019 v.44 pp. 24-31
batteries, evolution, gene regulatory networks, regulator genes, space and time
The formalization of the idea of “Regulatory Genome” is a recent one. However, it stems from a long tradition in the study of how the genetic information is transferred between generations. Theodore Boveri suggested for the first time that the whole genome participates in the shaping of individuals. Through a long lineage of researchers, we have learned how this whole-genome activity is regulated, in space and time. It is, however, due to the insights and experimental approaches taken by different researchers, among them Eric Davidson and associates, that we understand the mechanistic basis of this regulation. Whole batteries of regulatory genes interact through their cis-regulatory modules, generating a precise pattern of cross-controlled gene activity (Gene Regulatory Networks). How these genes are deployed in development and evolution has become an area of vibrant research. Here we revisit the history of this intellectual endeavour, taking as key defining points along this historical trajectory the contributions of Theodor Boveri and Eric Davidson.