Birth of a gene

Plant & zo

The science of plants and more

Birth of a gene

A gene, one that does something new, that has a different expression, often emerges from an old, already existing gene. Through duplication, through the shuffling of domains, through mutations. But not out of nothing. That what is often the believed. May be a mystery how genes emerged in the first place, but that is not relevant now a days. Or maybe it is. A group of researchers from Mexico and the Netherlands observed the birth of a new gene, that emerged without the duplication or domain shuffling often observed.

It started with the identification of a tale cress mutant called TWISTED. The siliques from TWISTED have a strong righthanded turn. Not only the siliques, everything shows a righthanded turn.

A completely new gene

In finding the gene responsible for this twisted phenotype, the researchers stumbled on a small region of the genome. A 334 nucleotide long piece of DNA that appeared to code for a protein. Closer observation showed that this piece of DNA indeed encodes a protein. And one that the mutation gave a higher expression. It had more TWISTED proteins.

But this mini-gene did not show any comparisons with other genes in Arabidopsis, or any other organisms in general. Only a handful of other plants from the tale cress family had a copy of it. A completely new gene. Only a couple of million years old.


Nayelli Marsch-Martínez, J. Irepan Reyes-Olalde, Antonio Chalfun-Junior, Marian Bemer, Yolanda Durán-Medina, Juan Carlos Ochoa-Sánchez, Herenia Guerrero-Largo, Humberto Herrera-Ubaldo, Jurriaan Mes, Alejandra Chacón, Rocio Escobar-Guzmán, Andy Pereira, Luis Herrera-Estrella, Gerco C. Angenent, Luis Delaye, and Stefan de Folter. 2022 Twisting development, the birth of a potential new gene. iScience 25, 105627

Published by Femke de Jong

A plant scientist who wants to let people know more about the wonders of plant science. Follow me at @plantandzo

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