Genetic robustness and functional evolution of gene duplicates

Nucleic Acids Res. 2014 Feb;42(4):2405-14. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkt1200. Epub 2013 Nov 27.


Gene duplications are a major source of evolutionary innovations. Understanding the functional divergence of duplicates and their role in genetic robustness is an important challenge in biology. Previously, analyses of genetic robustness were primarily focused on duplicates essentiality and epistasis in several laboratory conditions. In this study, we use several quantitative data sets to understand compensatory interactions between Saccharomyces cerevisiae duplicates that are likely to be relevant in natural biological populations. We find that, owing to their high functional load, close duplicates are unlikely to provide substantial backup in the context of large natural populations. Interestingly, as duplicates diverge from each other, their overall functional load is reduced. At intermediate divergence distances the quantitative decrease in fitness due to removal of one duplicate becomes smaller. At these distances, yeast duplicates display more balanced functional loads and their transcriptional control becomes significantly more complex. As yeast duplicates diverge beyond 70% sequence identity, their ability to compensate for each other becomes similar to that of random pairs of singletons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Duplication*
  • Genes, Fungal
  • Phenotype
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / growth & development