More Recent Comments

Monday, October 21, 2019

The evolution of de novo genes

De novo genes are new genes that arise spontaneously from junk DNA [De novo gene birth]. The frequency of de novo gene creation is important for an understanding of evolution. If it's a frequent event, then species with a large amount of junk DNA might have a selective advantage over species with less junk DNA, especially in a changing environment.

Last week I read a short Nature article on de novo genes [Levy, 2019] and I think the subject deserves more attention. Most new genes in a species appear to arise by gene duplication and subsequent divergence but de novo genes are genes that are unrelated to genes in any other clade so we can assume that they are created from junk DNA that accidentally becomes associated with a promoter causing the DNA to be transcribed. A new gene is formed if the RNA acquires a function. If the transcript contains an open reading frame then it may be translated to produce a polypeptide and if the polypeptide performs a new function then the resulting de novo gene is a new protein-coding gene.

The important question is whether the evolution of de novo genes is a common event or a rare event.