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Genetics. Sep 1995; 141(1): 159–179.
PMCID: PMC1206715

Meiotic Recombination, Noncoding DNA and Genomic Organization in Caenorhabditis Elegans

Abstract

The genetic map of each Caenorhabditis elegans chromosome has a central gene cluster (less pronounced on the X chromosome) that contains most of the mutationally defined genes. Many linkage group termini also have clusters, though involving fewer loci. We examine the factors shaping the genetic map by analyzing the rate of recombination and gene density across the genome using the positions of cloned genes and random cDNA clones from the physical map. Each chromosome has a central gene-dense region (more diffuse on the X) with discrete boundaries, flanked by gene-poor regions. Only autosomes have reduced rates of recombination in these gene-dense regions. Cluster boundaries appear discrete also by recombination rate, and the boundaries defined by recombination rate and gene density mostly, but not always, coincide. Terminal clusters have greater gene densities than the adjoining arm but similar recombination rates. Thus, unlike in other species, most exchange in C. elegans occurs in gene-poor regions. The recombination rate across each cluster is constant and similar; and cluster size and gene number per chromosome are independent of the physical size of chromosomes. We propose a model of how this genome organization arose.

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