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Mol Biol Evol. 2005 Dec;22(12):2444-56. Epub 2005 Aug 24.

Gene conversion and the evolution of three leucine-rich repeat gene families in Arabidopsis thaliana.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California in Irvine, USA. mariana.mondragon@uni-jena.de


The high number of duplicated genes in plant genomes provides a potential template for gene conversion and unequal crossing-over. Within a gene family these two processes can render all members homogeneous or generate diversity by reassorting variants among paralogs. The latter is especially feasible in families where gene diversity confers a selective advantage and thus conversion events are likely to be retained. Consequently, the most complete record of gene conversion is expected to be most evident in gene families commonly subjected to positive selection. Here, we describe the extent and characteristics of gene conversion and unequal crossing-over in the coding and noncoding regions of nucleotide-binding site leucine-rich repeat (NBS-LRR), receptor-like kinases (RLK), and receptor-like proteins (RLP) in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Members of these three gene families are associated with disease resistance and their pathogen-recognition domain is a documented target of positive selection. Our bioinformatic approach to study the major family features that may influence gene conversion revealed that in these families there is a significant association between the occurrence of gene conversion and high levels of sequence similarity, close physical clustering, gene orientation, and recombination rate. We discuss these results in the context of the overlap between gene conversion and positive selection during the evolutionary expansion of the NBS-LRR, RLK, and RLP gene families.

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