Evolutionary preservation of redundant duplicated genes

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 1999 Oct;10(5):555-9. doi: 10.1006/scdb.1999.0337.


Gene duplication events produce both perfect and imperfect copies of genes. Perfect copies are said to be functionally redundant when knockout of one gene produces no 'scoreable', phenotypic effects. Preserving identical, duplicate copies of genes is problematic as all copies are prone to accumulate neutral mutations as pseudogenes, or more rarely, evolve into new genes with novel functions. We summarise theoretical treatments for the invasion and subsequent evolutionary modification of functionally redundant genes. We then consider the preservation of functionally identical copies of a gene over evolutionary time. We present several models for conserving redundancy: asymmetric mutation, asymmetric efficacy, pleiotropy, developmental buffering, allelic competition and regulatory asymmetries. In all cases, some form of symmetry breaking is required to maintain functional redundancy indefinitely.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Duplication*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genome
  • Models, Genetic
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Multigene Family*
  • Mutation