Duplication and divergence: the evolution of new genes and old ideas

Annu Rev Genet. 2004:38:615-43. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genet.38.072902.092831.


Over 35 years ago, Susumu Ohno stated that gene duplication was the single most important factor in evolution. He reiterated this point a few years later in proposing that without duplicated genes the creation of metazoans, vertebrates, and mammals from unicellular organisms would have been impossible. Such big leaps in evolution, he argued, required the creation of new gene loci with previously nonexistent functions. Bold statements such as these, combined with his proposal that at least one whole-genome duplication event facilitated the evolution of vertebrates, have made Ohno an icon in the literature on genome evolution. However, discussion on the occurrence and consequences of gene and genome duplication events has a much longer, and often neglected, history. Here we review literature dealing with the occurrence and consequences of gene duplication, beginning in 1911. We document conceptual and technological advances in gene duplication research from this early research in comparative cytology up to recent research on whole genomes, "transcriptomes," and "interactomes."

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA / genetics*
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Electrophoresis
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Eye Proteins / genetics
  • Gene Duplication*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Isoenzymes
  • Models, Genetic
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Zebrafish / genetics
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics


  • Crys protein, Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Eye Proteins
  • Isoenzymes
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • en1a protein, zebrafish
  • DNA