Evidence for intron capture: an unusual path for the evolution of proteins.
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Most new genes are thought to evolve from preexisting genes but duplications of entire genes or shuffling of preexisting exons provides only a limited repertoire of new sequences that can be presented to a cell. Only pieces that previously existed can be used in the construction and any further divergence depends on the slow accumulation of mutations. We show here the presence of a small, in-frame intron in a ciliate phosphoglycerate kinase gene and the insertion of an unusually random amino acid sequence at the same position in trypanosome phosphoglycerate kinase. The unusual sequences in trypanosomes were likely to have originally been introns that have been subsequently captured by the protein and have now been incorporated as part of the coding sequence. Via this path a truly unique sequence can be incorporated into an existing protein, leading in time to the evolution of a new, functionally distinct protein.
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