It is easier to copy something than to develop something new - a principle that was long believed to also apply to the evolution of genes. According to this, evolution copies existing genes and then adapts the copies to new tasks.
However, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön have now revealed that new genes often form from scratch. Their analyses of genes from mice, humans and fish have shown that new genes are shorter than old ones and simpler in structure. These and other differences between young and old genes indicate that completely new genes can also form from previously unread regions of the genome. Moreover, the new genes often use existing regulatory elements from other genes before they create their own.When scientists decoded the first genes, they made a surprising discovery: similar variants of many genes are found even in very different organisms. This finding can be explained by the fact that evolution uses existing genes and adapts them to varying degrees for new tasks. The copying of genes plays an important role here. Copies are made of a gene and incorporated into the genome. Evolution can then experiment with these copies, while the original can continue to fulfil its function in its unaltered form. Completely new genes are very rare events in this model.
ContactProf. Dr. Diethard Tautz,
BMC Genomics 2013, 14:117 doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-117
Prof. Dr. Diethard Tautz | Max-Planck-Institute
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