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Nat Genet. 2004 May;36(5):523-7. Epub 2004 Apr 4.

Duplication-degeneration as a mechanism of gene fission and the origin of new genes in Drosophila species.

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CAS-Max Planck Junior Scientist Group, Key Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, Yunnan 650223, China.


Gene fission and fusion, the processes by which a single gene is split into two separate genes and two adjacent genes are fused into a single gene, respectively, are among the primary processes that generate new genes. Despite their seeming reversibility, nothing is known about the mechanism of gene fission. Because the nucleotide sequences of fission genes record little about their origination process, conventional analysis of duplicate genes may not be powerful enough to unravel the underlying mechanism. In a survey for young genes in species of the Drosophila melanogaster subgroup using fluorescence in situ hybridization, we identified a young gene family, monkey king, whose genesis sheds light on the evolutionary process of gene fission. Its members originated 1-2 million years ago as retroposed duplicates and evolved into fission genes that separately encode protein domains from a multidomain ancestor. The mechanism underlying this process is gene duplication with subsequent partial degeneration.

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