Lange, A, Patel, PH, Heames, B, Damry, AM, Saenger, T, Jackson, CJ, Findlay, GD, Bornberg-Bauer, E
Structural and functional characterization of a putative de novo gene in Drosophila
Nat Comm, in press, 2021
Comparative genomic studies have repeatedly shown that new protein-coding genes can emerge de novo from non-coding DNA. Still unknown is how and when the structures of encoded de novo proteins emerge and evolve. Combining biochemical, genetic and evolutionary analyses, we elucidate the function and structure of goddard, a gene which appears to have evolved de novo at least 50 million years ago within the Drosophila genus. Previous studies found that goddard is required for male fertility. Here, we show that Goddard protein localizes to elongating sperm axonemes and that in its absence, elongated spermatids fail to undergo individualization. Combining modelling, NMR and CD data, we show that Goddard protein contains a large central α-helix, but is otherwise partially disordered. We find similar results for Goddard's orthologs from divergent fly species and their reconstructed ancestral sequences. Accordingly, Goddard's structure appears to have been maintained with only minor changes over millions of years.