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Title: The goddard and saturn genes are essential for Drosophila male fertility and may have arisen de novo
New genes arise through a variety of mechanisms, including the duplication of existing genes and the de novo birth of genes from noncoding DNA sequences. While there are numerous examples of duplicated genes with important func- tional roles, the functions of de novo genes remain largely unexplored. Many newly evolved genes are expressed in the male reproductive tract, suggesting that these evolutionary innovations may provide advantages to males experiencing sexual selection. Using testis-specific RNA interference, we screened 11 putative de novo genes in Drosophila mela- nogaster for effects on male fertility and identified two, goddard and saturn, that are essential for spermatogenesis and sperm function. Goddard knockdown (KD) males fail to produce mature sperm, while saturn KD males produce few sperm, and these function inefficiently once transferred to females. Consistent with a de novo origin, both genes are identifiable only in Drosophila and are predicted to encode proteins with no sequence similarity to any annotated protein. However, since high levels of divergence prevented the unambiguous identification of the noncoding sequences from which each gene arose, we consider goddard and saturn to be putative de novo genes. Within Drosophila, both genes have been lost in certain lineages, but show conserved, male-specific more » patterns of expression in the species in which they are found. Goddard is consistently found in single-copy and evolves under purifying selection. In contrast, saturn has diversified through gene duplication and positive selection. These data suggest that de novo genes can acquire essential roles in male reproduction. « less
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Molecular biology and evolution
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National Science Foundation
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