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Genome Res. 2001 Nov;11(11):1842-7.

Pattern and timing of gene duplication in animal genomes.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA.


Duplication of genes, giving rise to multigene families, has been a characteristic feature of the evolution of eukaryotic genomes. In the case of vertebrates, it has been proposed that an increase in gene number resulted from two rounds of duplication of the entire genome by polyploidization (the 2R hypothesis). In the most extensive test to date of this hypothesis, we compared gene numbers in homologous families and conducted phylogenetic analyses of gene families with two to eight members in the complete genomes of Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster and the available portion of the human genome. Although the human genome showed a higher proportion of recent gene duplications than the other animal genomes, the proportion of duplications after the deuterostome-protostome split was constant across families, with no peak of such duplications in four-member families, contrary to the expectation of the 2R hypothesis. A substantial majority (70.9%) of human four-member families and four-member clusters in larger families showed topologies inconsistent with two rounds of polyploidization in vertebrates.

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