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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Oct 22;110(43):17409-14. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1313759110. Epub 2013 Oct 7.

Neofunctionalization of young duplicate genes in Drosophila.

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  • 1Department of Integrative Biology, Center for Theoretical Evolutionary Genomics, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720.


Gene duplication is a key source of genetic innovation that plays a role in the evolution of phenotypic complexity. Although several evolutionary processes can result in the long-term retention of duplicate genes, their relative contributions in nature are unknown. Here we develop a phylogenetic approach for comparing genome-wide expression profiles of closely related species to quantify the roles of conservation, neofunctionalization, subfunctionalization, and specialization in the preservation of duplicate genes. Application of our method to pairs of young duplicates in Drosophila shows that neofunctionalization, the gain of a novel function in one copy, accounts for the retention of almost two-thirds of duplicate genes. Surprisingly, novel functions nearly always originate in younger (child) copies, whereas older (parent) copies possess functions similar to those of ancestral genes. Further examination of such pairs reveals a strong bias toward RNA-mediated duplication events, implicating asymmetric duplication and positive selection in the evolution of new functions. Moreover, we show that young duplicate genes are expressed primarily in testes and that their expression breadth increases over evolutionary time. This finding supports the "out-of-testes" hypothesis, which posits that testes are a catalyst for the emergence of new genes that ultimately evolve functions in other tissues. Thus, our study highlights the importance of neofunctionalization and positive selection in the retention of young duplicates in Drosophila and illustrates how duplicates become incorporated into novel functional networks over evolutionary time.

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