The population genetic mechanisms governing the preservation of gene duplicates, especially in the critical very initial phase, have remained largely unknown. Here, we demonstrate that gene duplication confers per se a weak selective advantage in scenarios of fitness trade-offs. Through a precise quantitative description of a model system, we show that a second gene copy serves to reduce gene expression inaccuracies derived from pervasive molecular noise and suboptimal gene regulation. We then reveal that such an accuracy in the phenotype yields a selective advantage in the order of 0.1% on average, which would allow the positive selection of gene duplication in populations with moderate/large sizes. This advantage is greater at higher noise levels and intermediate concentrations of the environmental molecule, when fitness trade-offs become more evident. Moreover, we discuss how the genome rearrangement rates greatly condition the eventual fixation of duplicates. Overall, our theoretical results highlight an original adaptive value for cells carrying new-born duplicates, broadly analyze the selective conditions that determine their early fates in different organisms, and reconcile population genetics with evolution by gene duplication.
Trinity College Dublin ->