Gene duplication as a mechanism of genomic adaptation to a changing environment

Fyodor A. Kondrashov


A subject of extensive study in evolutionary theory has been the issue of how neutral, redundant copies can be maintained in the genome for long periods of time. Concurrently, examples of adaptive gene duplications to various environmental conditions in different species have been described. At this point, it is too early to tell whether or not a substantial fraction of gene copies have initially achieved fixation by positive selection for increased dosage. Nevertheless, enough examples have accumulated in the literature that such a possibility should be considered. Here, I review the recent examples of adaptive gene duplications and make an attempt to draw generalizations on what types of genes may be particularly prone to be selected for under certain environmental conditions. The identification of copy-number variation in ecological field studies of species adapting to stressful or novel environmental conditions may improve our understanding of gene duplications as a mechanism of adaptation and its relevance to the long-term persistence of gene duplications.


  • One contribution to a Special Feature ‘Genomics of adaptation’.

  • Received May 14, 2012.
  • Accepted August 21, 2012.
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