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Mol Biol Evol. 2003 Jan;20(1):54-61.

Microsatellite evolution at two hypervariable loci revealed by extensive avian pedigrees.

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  • 1Evolutionary Ecology Group, School of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.


Genealogies generated through a long-term study of superb fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus) were used to investigate mutation within two hypervariable microsatellite loci. Of 3,230 meioses examined at the tetranucleotide locus (Mcy micro 8), 45 mutations were identified, giving a mutation rate of 1.4%. At the dinucleotide locus (Mcy micro 4) 30 mutations were recorded from 2,750 meioses giving a mutation rate of 1.1%. Mutations at both loci primarily (80%; 60/75) involved the loss or gain of a single repeat unit. Unlike previous studies, there was no significant bias toward additions over deletions. The mutation rate at Mcy micro 8 increased with allele size, and very long alleles (>70 repeats) mutated at a rate of almost 20%. The length of the mutating allele and allele span, however, were strongly correlated so it was not possible to isolate the causative factor. Allele size did not appear to affect mutation rate at Mcy micro 4, but the repeat number was considerably lower at this locus. The gender of the mutating parent was significant only at Mcy micro 8, where mutations occurred more frequently in maternal alleles. However, at both loci we found that alleles inherited from the mother were on average larger than those from the father, and this in part drove the higher mutation rate among maternally inherited alleles at Mcy micro 8.

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