Evolution by gene loss

Nat Rev Genet. 2016 Jul;17(7):379-91. doi: 10.1038/nrg.2016.39. Epub 2016 Apr 18.


The recent increase in genomic data is revealing an unexpected perspective of gene loss as a pervasive source of genetic variation that can cause adaptive phenotypic diversity. This novel perspective of gene loss is raising new fundamental questions. How relevant has gene loss been in the divergence of phyla? How do genes change from being essential to dispensable and finally to being lost? Is gene loss mostly neutral, or can it be an effective way of adaptation? These questions are addressed, and insights are discussed from genomic studies of gene loss in populations and their relevance in evolutionary biology and biomedicine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetic Variation / genetics*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Selection, Genetic / genetics*