Faster Evolving Primate Genes Are More Likely to Duplicate

Áine N. O'Toole, Laurence D. Hurst, Aoife McLysaght

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (SciVal)


An attractive and long-standing hypothesis regarding the evolution of genes after duplication posits that the duplication event creates new evolutionary possibilities by releasing a copy of the gene from constraint. Apparent support was found in numerous analyses, particularly, the observation of higher rates of evolution in duplicated as compared with singleton genes. Could it, instead, be that more duplicable genes (owing to mutation, fixation, or retention biases) are intrinsically faster evolving? To uncouple the measurement of rates of evolution from the determination of duplicate or singleton status, we measure the rates of evolution in singleton genes in outgroup primate lineages but classify these genes as to whether they have duplicated or not in a crown group of great apes. We find that rates of evolution are higher in duplicable genes prior to the duplication event. In part this is owing to a negative correlation between coding sequence length and rate of evolution, coupled with a bias toward smaller genes being more duplicable. The effect is masked by difference in expression rate between duplicable genes and singletons. Additionally, in contradiction to the classical assumption, we find no convincing evidence for an increase in dN/dS after duplication, nor for rate asymmetry between duplicates. We conclude that high rates of evolution of duplicated genes are not solely a consequence of the duplication event, but are rather a predictor of duplicability. These results are consistent with a model in which successful gene duplication events in mammals are skewed toward events of minimal phenotypic impact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-118
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • duplicability
  • evolutionary constraint
  • evolutionary rates
  • gene duplication
  • primates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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