The fate of duplicated genes: loss or new function?

Bioessays. 1998 Oct;20(10):785-8. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-1878(199810)20:10<785::AID-BIES2>3.0.CO;2-M.


Gene duplication events are important sources of novel gene functions. However, more often than not, a duplicate gene may lose its function and become a pseudogene. What is the relative frequency of these two scenarios: functional divergence versus gene loss? Given that most non-neutral mutations are deleterious, gene loss should be far more frequent than divergence. However, a recent empirical study suggests that about 50% of all gene duplications will lead to functional divergence. The study infers the frequency of functional divergence from the size distribution of gene families produced by two successive genome duplications early in vertebrate evolution. Reasons for this unexpectedly high frequency of functional divergence are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genes, Duplicate*
  • Genetics, Population
  • Probability
  • Pseudogenes