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Life 2016, 6(3), 32; doi:10.3390/life6030032

Ultra Large Gene Families: A Matter of Adaptation or Genomic Parasites?

1
Institute for Genetics, University of Cologne, Köln 50674, Germany
2
Division of Biosciences, GEE, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Alexander Bolshoy
Received: 9 May 2016 / Revised: 27 June 2016 / Accepted: 20 July 2016 / Published: 8 August 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Structure and Evolution of Genome)
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Abstract

Gene duplication is an important mechanism of molecular evolution. It offers a fast track to modification, diversification, redundancy or rescue of gene function. However, duplication may also be neutral or (slightly) deleterious, and often ends in pseudo-geneisation. Here, we investigate the phylogenetic distribution of ultra large gene families on long and short evolutionary time scales. In particular, we focus on a family of NACHT-domain and leucine-rich-repeat-containing (NLR)-genes, which we previously found in large numbers to occupy one chromosome arm of the zebrafish genome. We were interested to see whether such a tight clustering is characteristic for ultra large gene families. Our data reconfirm that most gene family inflations are lineage-specific, but we can only identify very few gene clusters. Based on our observations we hypothesise that, beyond a certain size threshold, ultra large gene families continue to proliferate in a mechanism we term “run-away evolution”. This process might ultimately lead to the failure of genomic integrity and drive species to extinction. View Full-Text
Keywords: gene family; genome evolution; adaptation; neutral evolution; selection; NLR-genes; run-away-evolution; gene clusters gene family; genome evolution; adaptation; neutral evolution; selection; NLR-genes; run-away-evolution; gene clusters
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Schiffer, P.H.; Gravemeyer, J.; Rauscher, M.; Wiehe, T. Ultra Large Gene Families: A Matter of Adaptation or Genomic Parasites? Life 2016, 6, 32.

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