Asymmetric and non-uniform evolution of recently duplicated human genes

Alexander Y. Panchin, Mikhail S. Gelfand, Vasily E. Ramensky, Irena I. Artamonova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Gene duplications are a source of new genes and protein functions. The innovative role of duplication events makes families of paralogous genes an interesting target for studies in evolutionary biology. Here we study global trends in the evolution of human genes that resulted from recent duplications.Results: The pressure of negative selection is weaker during a short time immediately after a duplication event. Roughly one fifth of genes in paralogous gene families are evolving asymmetrically: one of the proteins encoded by two closest paralogs accumulates amino acid substitutions significantly faster than its partner. This asymmetry cannot be explained by differences in gene expression levels. In asymmetric gene pairs the number of deleterious mutations is increased in one copy, while decreased in the other copy as compared to genes constituting non-asymmetrically evolving pairs. The asymmetry in the rate of synonymous substitutions is much weaker and not significant.Conclusions: The increase of negative selection pressure over time after a duplication event seems to be a major trend in the evolution of human paralogous gene families. The observed asymmetry in the evolution of paralogous genes shows that in many cases one of two gene copies remains practically unchanged, while the other accumulates functional mutations. This supports the hypothesis that slowly evolving gene copies preserve their original functions, while fast evolving copies obtain new specificities or functions.Reviewers: This article was reviewed by Dr. Igor Rogozin (nominated by Dr. Arcady Mushegian), Dr. Fyodor Kondrashov, and Dr. Sergei Maslov.

Original languageEnglish
Article number54
JournalBiology Direct
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes


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