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Annu Rev Genet. 2013;47:307-33. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genet-111212-133301. Epub 2013 Sep 13.

New gene evolution: little did we know.

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Department of Ecology and Evolution, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637; email:


Genes are perpetually added to and deleted from genomes during evolution. Thus, it is important to understand how new genes are formed and how they evolve to be critical components of the genetic systems that determine the biological diversity of life. Two decades of effort have shed light on the process of new gene origination and have contributed to an emerging comprehensive picture of how new genes are added to genomes, ranging from the mechanisms that generate new gene structures to the presence of new genes in different organisms to the rates and patterns of new gene origination and the roles of new genes in phenotypic evolution. We review each of these aspects of new gene evolution, summarizing the main evidence for the origination and importance of new genes in evolution. We highlight findings showing that new genes rapidly change existing genetic systems that govern various molecular, cellular, and phenotypic functions.

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