Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 86, Issue 6, pp 340–352 | Cite as

Genes Relocated Between Drosophila Chromosome Arms Evolve Under Relaxed Selective Constraints Relative to Non-Relocated Genes

  • Margaret L. I. Hart
  • Ban L. Vu
  • Quinten Bolden
  • Keith T. Chen
  • Casey L. Oakes
  • Lejla Zoronjic
  • Richard P. MeiselEmail author
Original Article


Gene duplication creates a second copy of a gene either in tandem to the ancestral locus or dispersed to another chromosomal location. When the ancestral copy of a dispersed duplicate is lost from the genome, it creates the appearance that the gene was “relocated” from the ancestral locus to the derived location. Gene relocations may be as common as canonical dispersed duplications in which both the ancestral and derived copies are retained. Relocated genes appear to be under more selective constraints than the derived copies of canonical duplications, and they are possibly as conserved as single-copy non-relocated genes. To test this hypothesis, we combined comparative genomics, population genetics, gene expression, and functional analyses to assess the selection pressures acting on relocated, duplicated, and non-relocated single-copy genes in Drosophila genomes. We find that relocated genes evolve faster than single-copy non-relocated genes, and there is no evidence that this faster evolution is driven by positive selection. In addition, relocated genes are less essential for viability and male fertility than single-copy non-relocated genes, suggesting that relocated genes evolve fast because of relaxed selective constraints. However, relocated genes evolve slower than the derived copies of canonical dispersed duplicated genes. We therefore conclude that relocated genes are under more selective constraints than canonical duplicates, but are not as conserved as single-copy non-relocated genes.


Gene relocation Gene duplication Gene expression RNAi Selective constraints 



We thank members of the Meisel lab at the University of Houston and Andy Clark’s lab at Cornell University for assistance with the RNAi experiments. Mariana Wolfner kindly supplied the bam-Gal4 line, which was originally produced in Margaret Fuller’s laboratory. Erin Kelleher and multiple anonymous reviewers provided valuable feedback that improved this manuscript. We were supported by start up funds from the University of Houston to RPM and a University of Houston Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship to LZ.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology and BiochemistryUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Baylor College of MedicineHoustonUSA
  3. 3.College of PharmacyUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  4. 4.University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of NursingHoustonUSA
  5. 5.School of Graduate StudiesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  6. 6.Houston Department of Health and Human ServicesHoustonUSA
  7. 7.University of Texas School of DentistryHoustonUSA

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