Tagging New Genes

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Science  24 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6135, pp. 903
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6135.903-b

Epialleles are heritable, nongenetic (epigenetic) differences in DNA methylation. Although variation among epialleles in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana has been observed in laboratory populations, the frequency and effects of epialleles in natural populations are largely unknown. Silveira et al. examined epialleles of the Qua-Quine Starch (QQS) gene, which is unique to Arabidopsis and is believed to have evolved recently. QQS gene expression demonstrated epigenetic control. QQS expression correlated negatively with the degree of methylation at the promoter and varied among global accessions and wild populations. Thus, variation in gene expression via differentially regulated methylation in wild populations may be a mechanism for allowing selection to act on the expression levels of QQS and other evolutionarily de novo genes. Regions in the genome may undergo spontaneous changes in their epigenetic status, and these differences may be one evolutionary mechanism affecting the evolution of new genes.

PLoS Genet. 9, e1003437 (2013).

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