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New and Maybe Important

In a pair of articles, researchers from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Pittsburgh examined how often de novo genes crop up and how important they are when they do. In their article appearing in eLife this week, the researchers used conserved synteny to examine the portion of orphan genes — genes that don't look like any other genes — that can be attributed to complete divergence, finding that it accounts for about a third of eukaryotic orphan genes. This, they note, indicates that other processes account for the emergence of most orphan genes.

At the same time, the researchers also reported in Nature Communications earlier this month that the overexpression of de novo emerging coding sequences tend to be associated with increased adaptive fitness in budding yeast, suggesting these new genes could be important.

"Order seems like something that's hard to achieve, but our results go completely opposite to that. We found that simple order is rampant everywhere in the genome. The propensity to make simple shapes that are stable is already there, waiting to be exposed," Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis from the University of Pittsburgh, who is an author on both papers, says in a statement. "De novo gene birth is thus becoming less and less mysterious as we better understand molecular innovation."