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Gene duplication: a drive for phenotypic diversity and cause of human disease.

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Department of Genetic Medicine & Development, University of Geneva Medical School and Geneva University Hospitals, CH-1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland.


Gene duplication is one of the key factors driving genetic innovation, i.e., producing novel genetic variants. Although the contribution of whole-genome and segmental duplications to phenotypic diversity across species is widely appreciated, the phenotypic spectrum and potential pathogenicity of small-scale duplications in individual genomes are less well explored. This review discusses the nature of small-scale duplications and the phenotypes produced by such duplications. Phenotypic variation and disease phenotypes induced by duplications are more diverse and widespread than previously anticipated, and duplications are a major class of disease-related genomic variation. Pathogenic duplications particularly involve dosage-sensitive genes with both similar and dissimilar over- and underexpression phenotypes, and genes encoding proteins with a propensity to aggregate. Phenotypes related to human-specific copy number variation in genes regulating environmental responses and immunity are increasingly recognized. Small genomic duplications containing defense-related genes also contribute to complex common phenotypes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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