Gene duplication is thought to play a major role in phenotypic evolution. Yet the forces involved in the functional divergence of young duplicate genes remain unclear. Here, we use population-genetic inference to elucidate the role of natural selection in the functional evolution of young duplicate genes in Drosophila melanogaster. We find that negative selection acts on young duplicates with ancestral functions, and positive selection on those with novel functions, suggesting that natural selection may determine whether and how young duplicate genes are retained. Moreover, evidence of natural selection is strongest in protein-coding regions and 30 UTRs of young duplicates, indicating that selection may primarily target encoded proteins and regulatory sequences specific to 30 UTRs. Further analysis reveals that natural selection acts immediately after duplication and weakens over time, possibly explaining the observed bias toward the acquisition of new functions by young, rather than old, duplicate gene copies. Last, we find an enrichment of testis-related functions in young duplicates that underwent recent positive selection, but not in young duplicates that did not undergo recent positive selection, or in old duplicates that either did or did not undergo recent positive selection. Thus, our findings reveal that natural selection is a key player in the functional evolution of young duplicate genes, acts rapidly and in a region-specific manner, and may underlie the origin of novel testis-specific phenotypes in Drosophila.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology