More Than Just a Copy

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Science  21 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5943, pp. 958-959
DOI: 10.1126/science.1178487

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How do new gene functions arise? The importance of gene duplication for the emergence of new gene functions, and hence for the origin of evolutionary innovations, was already recognized in the early 1930s by geneticists J. B. S. Haldane (1) and H. J. Muller (2), and later popularized by S. Ohno (3). In this view, the occurrence of a second copy of a gene provides unique raw material for evolutionary diversification: One of the two duplicate gene copies is preserved to maintain the original gene function, whereas the other is free to accumulate mutations, potentially yielding a gene with new functional properties. A large body of data has provided incontestable support for this early hypothesis (4). On page 995 in this issue (5), Parker et al. provide a new paradigm for gene duplication with implications regarding the evolution of new gene functions.