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Genetics. May 2003; 164(1): 407–417.
PMCID: PMC1462539

A coalescent model of recombination hotspots.


Recent experimental findings suggest that the assumption of a homogeneous recombination rate along the human genome is too naive. These findings point to block-structured recombination rates; certain regions (called hotspots) are more prone than other regions to recombination. In this report a coalescent model incorporating hotspot or block-structured recombination is developed and investigated analytically as well as by simulation. Our main results can be summarized as follows: (1) The expected number of recombination events is much lower in a model with pure hotspot recombination than in a model with pure homogeneous recombination, (2) hotspots give rise to large variation in recombination rates along the genome as well as in the number of historical recombination events, and (3) the size of a (nonrecombining) block in the hotspot model is likely to be overestimated grossly when estimated from SNP data. The results are discussed with reference to the current debate about block-structured recombination and, in addition, the results are compared to genome-wide variation in recombination rates. A number of new analytical results about the model are derived.

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Selected References

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