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Young Genes out of the Male: an Insight from Evolutionary Age Analysis of the Pollen Transcriptome

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journal contribution
posted on 18.02.2015, 15:32 by X. Cui, Y. Lv, M. Chen, Z. Nikoloski, David Twell, D. Zhang
The birth of new genes in genomes is an important evolutionary event. Several studies reveal that new genes in animals tend to be preferentially expressed in male reproductive tissues such as testis (Betrán et al., 2002; Begun et al., 2007; Dubruille et al., 2012), and thus an “out of the testis” hypothesis for the emergence of new genes has been proposed (Vinckenbosch et al., 2006; Kaessmann, 2010). However, such phenomena have not been examined in plant species. Here, by employing a phylostratigraphic method we dated the origin of protein coding genes in rice and Arabidopsis thaliana and observed a number of young genes in both species. These young genes tend to encode short extracellular proteins, which may be involved in rapid evolving processes, such as: reproductive barriers, species specification and anti-microbial processes. Further analysis of transcriptome age indexes across different tissues revealed that male reproductive cells express a phylogenetically younger transcriptome than other plant tissues. Compared to sporophytic tissues, the young transcriptomes of the male gametophyte displayed greater complexity and diversity, which included a higher ratio of anti-sense and inter-genic transcripts, reflecting pervasive transcription state that facilitated the emergence of new genes. Here, we propose that pollen may act as an “innovation incubator” for the birth of de novo genes. With cases of male-biased expression of young genes reported in animals, the “new genes out of the male” model revealed a common evolutionary force that drives reproductive barriers, species specification and the upgrading of defensive mechanisms against pathogens.


This work was supported by funds from National Natural Science Foundation of China (31230051, 30971739, 31270222 and 31110103915); China Innovative Research Team, Ministry of Education; 111 Project (B14016); National Key Basic Research Developments Program, Ministry of Science and Technology, China (2013CB126902 and 2011CB100101); the 863 High-Tech Project, Ministry of Science and Technology, China (2011AA10A101 and 2012AA10A302).



Cui et al., Young Genes out of the Male: An Insight from Evolutionary Age Analysis of the Pollen Transcriptome, Molecular Plant (2015)

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES AND PSYCHOLOGY/School of Biological Sciences/Department of Biology


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