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PLoS One. 2008 Jul 30;3(7):e2835. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002835.

Clustering of Drosophila melanogaster immune genes in interplay with recombination rate.

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  • Institute for Integrative Biology, Experimental Ecology, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland. mathias.wegner@env.ethz.ch



Gene order in eukaryotic chromosomes is not random and has been linked to coordination of gene expression, chromatin structure and also recombination rate. The evolution of recombination rate is especially relevant for genes involved in immunity because host-parasite co-evolution could select for increased recombination rate (Red Queen hypothesis). To identify patterns left by the intimate interaction between hosts and parasites, I analysed the genomic parameters of the immune genes from 24 gene families/groups of Drosophila melanogaster.


Immune genes that directly interact with the pathogen (i.e. recognition and effector genes) clustered in regions of higher recombination rates. Out of these, clustered effector genes were transcribed fastest indicating that transcriptional control might be one major cause for cluster formation. The relative position of clusters to each other, on the other hand, cannot be explained by transcriptional control per se. Drosophila immune genes that show epistatic interactions can be found at an average distance of 15.44+/-2.98 cM, which is considerably closer than genes that do not interact (30.64+/-1.95 cM).


Epistatically interacting genes rarely belong to the same cluster, which supports recent models of optimal recombination rates between interacting genes in antagonistic host-parasite co-evolution. These patterns suggest that formation of local clusters might be a result of transcriptional control, but that in the condensed genome of D. melanogaster relative position of these clusters may be a result of selection for optimal rather than maximal recombination rates between these clusters.

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