Drosophila duplicate genes evolve new functions on the fly

Raquel Assis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Gene duplication is thought to play a key role in phenotypic innovation. While several processes have been hypothesized to drive the retention and functional evolution of duplicate genes, their genomic contributions have never been determined. We recently developed the first genome-wide method to classify these processes by comparing distances between expression profiles of duplicate genes and their ancestral single-copy orthologs. Application of our approach to spatial gene expression profiles in two Drosophila species revealed that a majority of young duplicate genes possess new functions, and that new functions are acquired rapidly-often within a few million years. Surprisingly, new functions tend to arise in younger copies of duplicate gene pairs. Moreover, we found that young duplicates are often specifically expressed in testes, whereas old duplicates are broadly expressed across several tissues, providing strong support for the hypothetical "out-of-testes" origin of new genes. In this Extra View, I discuss our findings in the context of theoretical predictions about gene duplication, with a particular emphasis on the importance of natural selection in the evolution of novel phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Insect Science


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