Our ERC Advanced Grant NovoGenePop has just started! This means we can already recruits scientists and start to gather data. The project will investigate how new genes arise in closely related species and populations. This will involve the development of computational methods to integrate large amounts of transcriptomics and translatomics data. We will be asking questions such as: which is the rate of formation of new genes from non-coding genomic regions (i.e. de novo)?, how can we assess the influence of selection in the emergence of new genes (noise versus functional)?, what drives the translation of initially silent open reading frames? etc.. etc. (your questions here).
In our earliest works (2005!) we started comparing the genomes of different eukaryotic species, asking ourselves why there were so many species- and lineage-specific genes (check this Nature News Feature). Over the years, and thanks to the research done by many groups around the world, we have obtained plenty of evidence for the formation of new genes de novo. It is less clear though which mutational processes drive the emergence of these genes and how they may impact differences in fitness across individuals. We expect this project will help advance these questions and perhaps others that will come along the way.