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Nat Ecol Evol. 2017 Jun;1(6):0146-146. doi: 10.1038/s41559-017-0146. Epub 2017 Apr 24.

Young Genes are Highly Disordered as Predicted by the Preadaptation Hypothesis of De Novo Gene Birth.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona.
Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology.
Contributed equally


The phenomenon of de novo gene birth from junk DNA is surprising, because random polypeptides are expected to be toxic. There are two conflicting views about how de novo gene birth is nevertheless possible: the continuum hypothesis invokes a gradual gene birth process, while the preadaptation hypothesis predicts that young genes will show extreme levels of gene-like traits. We show that intrinsic structural disorder conforms to the predictions of the preadaptation hypothesis and falsifies the continuum hypothesis, with all genes having higher levels than translated junk DNA, but young genes having the highest level of all. Results are robust to homology detection bias, to the non-independence of multiple members of the same gene family, and to the false positive annotation of protein-coding genes.

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