The real life of pseudogenes

Mark Gerstein, Deyou Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

28 Scopus citations


The differences in pseudogenes offer hints about diverse life histories of different species and plays an important roles in regulating the activity of functional genes. Pseudogenes may analogously be vestiges of old code associated with defunct routines, but they also constitute a fascinating record contained within the overall program of how it has grown and diversified. Most pseudogenes are disabled duplicates of working genes and may have been dead on arrival, having suffered lethal damage during the copying process, or they may have accumulated debilitating mutations over time that collectively rendered them incapable of functioning. Pseudogenes can be born in two ways, duplication and retrotransposition, each of which yields a distinctive fascimile of the original parent gene. They are reactivated when the organism is challenged by a stressful new environment, and might be considered as potentially unorned genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-55
Number of pages8
JournalScientific American
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2006
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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