New publication: De novo gene evolution of antifreeze glycoproteins in codfishes revealed by whole genome sequence data

By Helle Tessand Baalsrud1, Ole Kristian Tørresen1, Monica Hongrø Solbakken1, Walter Salzburger1,2, Reinhold Hanel3, Kjetill S. Jakobsen1, and Sissel Jentoft1 in Molecular Biology and Evolution (Open Access)


New genes can arise through duplication of a pre-existing gene or de novo from non-coding DNA, providing raw material for evolution of new functions in response to a changing environment. A prime example is the independent evolution of antifreeze glycoprotein genes (afgps) in the Arctic codfishes and Antarctic notothenioids to prevent freezing. However, the highly repetitive nature of these genes complicates studies of their organization. In notothenioids, afgps evolved from an extant gene, yet the evolutionary origin of afgps in codfishes is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that afgps in codfishes have evolved de novo from non-coding DNA 13-18 Ma, coinciding with the cooling of the Northern Hemisphere. Using whole-genome sequence data from several codfishes and notothenioids, we find higher copy number of afgp in species exposed to more severe freezing suggesting a gene dosage effect. Notably, antifreeze function is lost in one lineage of codfishes analogous to the afgp losses in non-Antarctic notothenioids. This indicates that selection can eliminate the antifreeze function when freezing is no longer imminent. Additionally, we show that evolution of afgp-assisting antifreeze potentiating protein genes (afpps) in notothenioids coincides with origin and lineage-specific losses of afgp. The origin of afgps in codfishes is one of the first examples of an essential gene born from non-coding DNA in a non-model species. Our study underlines the power of comparative genomics to uncover past molecular signatures of genome evolution, and further highlights the impact of de novo gene origin in response to a changing selection regime.

1 Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.
2 Zoological Institute, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.
3 Institute of Fisheries Ecology, Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute, Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries, Hamburg, Germany

Molecular Biology and Evolution
DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msx311
Published: 5 December 2017
Publication webpage.

Tags: Molecular Biology and Evolution;
Published Dec. 6, 2017 10:39 AM - Last modified Dec. 6, 2017 10:39 AM