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J Evol Biol. 2007 Mar;20(2):617-26.

The evolutionary fate of recently duplicated retrogenes in mice.

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CNRS UMR -Génome, Populations, Interactions, Adaptation, Université Montpellier, Montpellier, France.


Inferences about the evolutionary impact of gene duplications often rely on the analysis of their long-term outcome. The fate of the majority of them must, however, be decided shortly after duplication. Here we analysed the evolutionary pattern of 10 mouse genes very recently duplicated by retrotransposition, by sequencing the retroposed copy in five to 10 closely related mouse species. In all cases the retroposed copy experienced accelerated nonsynonymous evolution whereas the divergence pattern of the source copy appeared unaffected by the duplication, consistent with the neofunctionalization model. The analysis further revealed that most retrogenes, including pseudogenes, did not experience a period of relaxed neutral evolution, but have been submitted to purifying selection ever since their retroposition. We propose that these duplicates play a biochemical role but are not indispensable. Purifying selection prevents them from acquiring a negative role until they are lost or silenced. This period of unnecessary redundancy could in rare cases give the time for new functions to evolve.

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