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Bioessays. 2012 Nov;34(11):982-91. doi: 10.1002/bies.201200008. Epub 2012 Sep 24.

New genes expressed in human brains: implications for annotating evolving genomes.

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Key Laboratory of the Zoological Systematics and Evolution, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.R. China.


New genes have frequently formed and spread to fixation in a wide variety of organisms, constituting abundant sets of lineage-specific genes. It was recently reported that an excess of primate-specific and human-specific genes were upregulated in the brains of fetuses and infants, and especially in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in cognition. These findings reveal the prevalent addition of new genetic components to the transcriptome of the human brain. More generally, these findings suggest that genomes are continually evolving in both sequence and content, eroding the conservation endowed by common ancestry. Despite increasing recognition of the importance of new genes, we highlight here that these genes are still seriously under-characterized in functional studies and that new gene annotation is inconsistent in current practice. We propose an integrative approach to annotate new genes, taking advantage of functional and evolutionary genomic methods. We finally discuss how the refinement of new gene annotation will be important for the detection of evolutionary forces governing new gene origination.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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