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Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2009;74:355-62. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2009.74.011. Epub 2009 Aug 28.

The evolution of human segmental duplications and the core duplicon hypothesis.

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  • 1Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.


Duplicated sequences are important sources of genetic instability and in the evolution of new gene function within species. Hominids have a preponderance of intrachromosomal duplications organized in an interspersed fashion, as opposed to tandem duplications, which are common in other mammalian genomes such as mouse, dog, and cow. Multiple lines of evidence, including sequence divergence, comparative primate genomes, and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) analyses, point to an excess of segmental duplications in the common ancestor of humans and African great apes. We find that much of the interspersed human duplication architecture within chromosomes is focused around common sequence elements referred to as "core duplicons." These cores correspond to the expansion of gene families, some of which show signatures of positive selection and lack orthologs present in other mammalian species. This genomic architecture predisposes apes and humans not only to extensive genetic diversity, but also to large-scale structural diversity mediated by nonallelic homologous recombination. In humans, many de novo large-scale genomic changes mediated by these duplications are associated with neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disease. We propose that the disadvantage of a high rate of new mutations is offset by the selective advantage of newly minted genes within the cores.

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