New genes can arise through duplication of a pre-existing gene or de novo from non-coding DNA, providing raw material for evolution of new functions in response to a changing environment. A prime example is the independent evolution of antifreeze glycoprotein genes (afgps) in the Arctic codfishes and Antarctic notothenioids to prevent freezing. However, the highly repetitive nature of these genes complicates studies of their organization. In notothenioids, afgps evolved from an extant gene, yet the evolutionary origin of afgps in codfishes is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that afgps in codfishes have evolved de novo from non-coding DNA 13-18 Ma, coinciding with the cooling of the Northern Hemisphere. Using whole-genome sequence data from several codfishes and notothenioids, we find higher copy number of afgp in species exposed to more severe freezing suggesting a gene dosage effect. Notably, antifreeze function is lost in one lineage of codfishes analogous to the afgp losses in non-Antarctic notothenioids. This indicates that selection can eliminate the antifreeze function when freezing is no longer imminent. In addition, we show that evolution of afgp-assisting antifreeze potentiating protein genes (afpps) in notothenioids coincides with origin and lineage-specific losses of afgp. The origin of afgps in codfishes is one of the first examples of an essential gene born from non-coding DNA in a non-model species. Our study underlines the power of comparative genomics to uncover past molecular signatures of genome evolution, and further highlights the impact of de novo gene origin in response to a changing selection regime.
Keywords: molecular adaptation; orphan genes; teleost fishes.
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.