Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ancient origin of genes associated with human genetic disease

via Dienekes, an interesting paper on the temporal origin of disease-related genes.

An ancient evolutionary origin of genes associated with human genetic diseases
Tomislav Domazet-Loo and Diethard Tautz
Molecular Biology and Evolution
Abstract: Several thousand genes in the human genome have been linked to a heritable genetic disease. The majority of these appear to be non-essential genes (i.e. are not embryonically lethal when inactivated) and one could therefore speculate that they are late additions in the evolutionary lineage towards humans. Contrary to this expectation, we find that they are in fact significantly over-represented among the genes that have emerged during the early evolution of the metazoa. Using a phylostratigraphic approach, we have studied the evolutionary emergence of such genes at 19 phylogenetic levels. The majority of disease genes was already present in the eukaryotic ancestor and the second largest number has arisen around the time of evolution of multicellularity. Conversely, genes specific to the mammalian lineage are highly underrepresented. Hence, genes involved in genetic diseases are not simply a random subset of all genes in the genome, but are biased towards ancient genes.

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