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Curr Biol. 2011 Feb 22;21(4):306-10. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.01.026. Epub 2011 Feb 3.

High spontaneous rate of gene duplication in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA.


Gene and genome duplications are the primary source of new genes and novel functions and have played a pivotal role in the evolution of genomic and organismal complexity. The spontaneous rate of gene duplication is a critical parameter for understanding the evolutionary dynamics of gene duplicates; yet few direct empirical estimates exist and differ widely. The presence of a large population of recently derived gene duplicates in sequenced genomes suggests a high rate of spontaneous origin, also evidenced by population genomic studies reporting rampant copy-number polymorphism at the intraspecific level. An analysis of long-term mutation accumulation lines of Caenorhabditis elegans for gene copy-number changes with array comparative genomic hybridization yields the first direct estimate of the genome-wide rate of gene duplication in a multicellular eukaryote. The gene duplication rate in C. elegans is quite high, on the order of 10(-7) duplications/gene/generation. This rate is two orders of magnitude greater than the spontaneous rate of point mutation per nucleotide site in this species and also greatly exceeds an earlier estimate derived from the frequency distribution of extant gene duplicates in the sequenced C. elegans genome.

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