New Scientist carries an interesting article on the subject of ORFan genes (i.e. genes which possess no known homologue):
NOT having any family is tough. Often unappreciated and uncomfortably different, orphans have to fight to fit in and battle against the odds to realise their potential. Those who succeed, from Aristotle to Steve Jobs, sometimes change the world.
Who would have thought that our DNA plays host to a similar cast of foundlings? When biologists began sequencing genomes, they discovered that up to a third of genes in each species seemed to have no parents or family of any kind. Nevertheless, some of these “orphan genes” are high achievers, and a few even seem have played a part in the evolution of the human brain.
But where do they come from? With no obvious ancestry, it was as if these genes had appeared from nowhere, but that couldn’t be true. Everyone assumed that as we learned more, we would discover what had happened to their families. But we haven’t …