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BMC Evol Biol. 2008 Oct 2;8:269. doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-8-269.

Evolutionary analysis of the highly dynamic CHEK2 duplicon in anthropoids.

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  • 1Institute of Human Genetics and Anthropology, University of Freiburg, Breisacher Str, 33, 79106 Freiburg, Germany.



Segmental duplications (SDs) are euchromatic portions of genomic DNA (> or = 1 kb) that occur at more than one site within the genome, and typically share a high level of sequence identity (>90%). Approximately 5% of the human genome is composed of such duplicated sequences. Here we report the detailed investigation of CHEK2 duplications. CHEK2 is a multiorgan cancer susceptibility gene encoding a cell cycle checkpoint kinase acting in the DNA-damage response signalling pathway. The continuous presence of the CHEK2 gene in all eukaryotes and its important role in maintaining genome stability prompted us to investigate the duplicative evolution and phylogeny of CHEK2 and its paralogs during anthropoid evolution.


To study CHEK2 duplicon evolution in anthropoids we applied a combination of comparative FISH and in silico analyses. Our comparative FISH results with a CHEK2 fosmid probe revealed the single-copy status of CHEK2 in New World monkeys, Old World monkeys and gibbons. Whereas a single CHEK2 duplication was detected in orangutan, a multi-site signal pattern indicated a burst of duplication in African great apes and human. Phylogenetic analysis of paralogous and ancestral CHEK2 sequences in human, chimpanzee and rhesus macaque confirmed this burst of duplication, which occurred after the radiation of orangutan and African great apes. In addition, we used inter-species quantitative PCR to determine CHEK2 copy numbers. An amplification of CHEK2 was detected in African great apes and the highest CHEK2 copy number of all analysed species was observed in the human genome. Furthermore, we detected variation in CHEK2 copy numbers within the analysed set of human samples.


Our detailed analysis revealed the highly dynamic nature of CHEK2 duplication during anthropoid evolution. We determined a burst of CHEK2 duplication after the radiation of orangutan and African great apes and identified the highest CHEK2 copy number in human. In conclusion, our analysis of CHEK2 duplicon evolution revealed that SDs contribute to inter-species variation. Furthermore, our qPCR analysis led us to presume CHEK2 copy number variation in human, and molecular diagnostics of the cancer susceptibility gene CHEK2 inside the duplicated region might be hampered by the individual-specific set of duplicons.

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