Nested genes are themost common form of protein-coding overlap in eukaryotic genomes. Previous studies have shown that nested genes accumulate rapidly over evolutionary time, typically via the insertion of short youngduplicate genes into long introns.However, the evolutionary relationshipbetweennested genes remains unclear. Here, IcompareRNA-seqexpressionprofilesofnested, proximal intra-chromosomal, intermediate intra-chromosomal, distant intra-chromosomal, and inter-chromosomal gene pairs in two Drosophila species. I find that expression profiles of nested genes are more divergent than those of any other class of genes, supporting the hypothesis that concurrent expression of nested genes is deleterious due to transcriptional interference. Further analysis reveals that expression profiles of derived nested genes aremore divergent than those of their ancestral un-nested orthologs, which are more divergent than those of un-nested genes with similar genomic features. Thus, gene expression divergence between nested genes is likely caused by selection against nesting of genes with insufficiently divergent expression profiles, as well as by continued expression divergence after nesting. Moreover, expression divergence and sequence evolutionary rates are elevated in young nested genes and reduced in old nested genes, indicating that a burst of rapid evolution occurs after nesting. Together, these findings suggest that similarity between expression profiles of nested genes is deleterious due to transcriptional interference, and that natural selection addresses this problem both by eradicating highly deleterious nestings and by enabling rapid expression divergence of surviving nested genes, thereby quickly limiting or abolishing transcriptional interference.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics