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Nat Rev Genet. 2013 Sep;14(9):645-60. doi: 10.1038/nrg3521.

New genes as drivers of phenotypic evolution.

Author information

1] Department of Ecology and Evolution, The University of Chicago, 1101 East 57th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA. [2] Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.

Erratum in

  • Nat Rev Genet. 2013 Oct;14(10):744.


During the course of evolution, genomes acquire novel genetic elements as sources of functional and phenotypic diversity, including new genes that originated in recent evolution. In the past few years, substantial progress has been made in understanding the evolution and phenotypic effects of new genes. In particular, an emerging picture is that new genes, despite being present in the genomes of only a subset of species, can rapidly evolve indispensable roles in fundamental biological processes, including development, reproduction, brain function and behaviour. The molecular underpinnings of how new genes can develop these roles are starting to be characterized. These recent discoveries yield fresh insights into our broad understanding of biological diversity at refined resolution.

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