Nature Reviews Genetics 9, 938-950 (December 2008) | doi:10.1038/nrg2482

Turning a hobby into a job: How duplicated genes find new functions

Gavin C. Conant1 & Kenneth H. Wolfe2  About the authors


Gene duplication provides raw material for functional innovation. Recent advances have shed light on two fundamental questions regarding gene duplication: which genes tend to undergo duplication? And how does natural selection subsequently act on them? Genomic data suggest that different gene classes tend to be retained after single-gene and whole-genome duplications. We also know that functional differences between duplicate genes can originate in several different ways, including mutations that directly impart new functions, subdivision of ancestral functions and selection for changes in gene dosage. Interestingly, in many cases the 'new' function of one copy is a secondary property that was always present, but that has been co-opted to a primary role after the duplication.

Author affiliations

  1. Division of Animal Sciences, University of Missouri–Columbia, 163B Animal Sciences Center, 920 East Campus Drive, Columbia, Missouri 65211-5300, USA.
  2. Smurfit Institute of Genetics, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland.

Correspondence to: Kenneth H. Wolfe2 Email:


These links to content published by NPG are automatically generated.


Evolutionary developmental biology and genomics

Nature Reviews Genetics Review (01 Dec 2007)

Splitting pairs: the diverging fates of duplicated genes

Nature Reviews Genetics Review (01 Nov 2002)

The evolutionary significance of ancient genome duplications

Nature Reviews Genetics Perspective (01 Oct 2009)

The evolution of gene duplications: classifying and distinguishing between models

Nature Reviews Genetics Review (01 Feb 2010)

See all 18 matches for Reviews