Gene duplication is a recurring phenomenon in genome evolution and a major driving force in the gain of biological functions. Here, we examine the role of gene duplication in the origin and maintenance of moonlighting proteins, with special focus on functional redundancy and innovation, molecular tradeoffs, and genetic robustness. An overview of specific examples-mainly from yeast-suggests a widespread conservation of moonlighting behavior in duplicate genes after long evolutionary times. Dosage amplification and incomplete subfunctionalization appear to be prevalent in the maintenance of multifunctionality. We discuss the role of gene-expression divergence and paralog responsiveness in moonlighting proteins with overlapping biochemical properties. Future studies analyzing multifunctional genes in a more systematic and comprehensive manner will not only enable a better understanding of how this emerging class of protein behavior originates and is maintained, but also provide new insights on the mechanisms of evolution by gene duplication.
Keywords: dosage balance; functional trade-offs; gene duplication and evolution; genetic redundancy; moonlighting proteins; neofunctionalization; paralog responsiveness; subfunctionalization.