GeNES - Gene Network Evolution System

GeNES is a command-line tool for simulating the evolution of artificial gene regulatory networks.

 Sex Begets Sex

The question of why sexual reproduction evolved has long taxed biologists. We propose that sexual reproduction actually selects for conditions that favour its own maintenance - a case of evolution forging its own path. One possible advantage of sex is that it may help rid the genome of harmful mutations. When, as a result of sexual reproduction, organisms shuffle their genes, harmful mutations can be brought together in the same genome, making them more susceptible to the cleansing action of natural selection. But for this to work, mutations must be more harmful when combined in the same genome than when separated - a phenomenon known as 'negative epistasis'. We used GeNES to show that recombination between genetic networks could favour the evolution of very robust genomes. It seems that the evolution of negative epistasis is a by-product of this process, further reinforcing the genetic benefits of sexual recombination. This would help to explain why sexual reproduction is so common in species despite its inherent costs, such as that of searching for mates. (Azevedo et al., 2006).