Report

Origin and Spread of de Novo Genes in Drosophila melanogaster Populations

Science  14 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6172, pp. 769-772
DOI: 10.1126/science.1248286

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Abstract

Comparative genomic analyses have revealed that genes may arise from ancestrally nongenic sequence. However, the origin and spread of these de novo genes within populations remain obscure. We identified 142 segregating and 106 fixed testis-expressed de novo genes in a population sample of Drosophila melanogaster. These genes appear to derive primarily from ancestral intergenic, unexpressed open reading frames, with natural selection playing a significant role in their spread. These results reveal a heretofore unappreciated dynamism of gene content.

Losses and Gains

In order to better understand the process by which de novo genes originate, Zhao et al. (p. 769, published online 23 January) examined testis-based gene expression among Drosophila melanogaster strains and identified both fixed and polymorphic de novo genes. The results suggest that spontaneous activation of previously noncoding DNA may be an important factor in generating genetic novelty.

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