Oocytes pp 483-494 | Cite as

The Origin and Evolution of Maternal Genes

Part of the Results and Problems in Cell Differentiation book series (RESULTS, volume 63)


Proteins and RNA molecules are deposited into the developing egg by the mother. These gene products will drive the first stages of development and are coded by maternal genes. Maternal genes are essential, yet, despite their importance, their evolutionary dynamics is largely unknown. Here I review the current knowledge of maternal gene evolution. The evolutionary origin of maternal genes tends to be more recent than that of zygotic genes. Some studies support the theoretical prediction that maternal genes evolve faster than zygotic genes. However, most studies were done on a limited set of species and genes. I also discuss the way forward to understand the evolution of maternal genes by combining high-throughput genomics and theoretical evolutionary approaches.


Maternal-effect Evolution Embryonic development Bicoid 



messenger RNA


Million years


Untranslated Region



I am very grateful to Jordi Paps and an anonymous reviewer for critical reading of the manuscript and to Jordi Paps and Cristina Guijarro for discussion on the evolution of HSF1. Work in my lab is funded by the Wellcome Trust [200585/Z/16/Z].


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of EssexColchesterUK

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