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Mol Biol Evol. 2000 Jan;17(1):179-88.

Polymorphism and divergence in the beta-globin replication origin initiation region.

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Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802, USA.


DNA sequence polymorphism and divergence was examined in the vicinity of the human beta-globin gene cluster origin of replication initiation region (IR), a 1.3-kb genomic region located immediately 5' of the adult-expressed beta-globin gene. DNA sequence variation in the replication origin IR and 5 kb of flanking DNA was surveyed in samples drawn from two populations, one African (from the Gambia, West Africa) and the other European (from Oxford, England). In these samples, levels of nucleotide and length polymorphism in the IR were found to be more than two times as high as adjacent non-IR-associated regions (estimates of per-nucleotide heterozygosity were 0.30% and 0.12%, respectively). Most polymorphic positions identified in the origin IR fall within or just adjacent to a 52-bp alternating purine-pyrimidine ((RY)n) sequence repeat. Within- and between-populations divergence is highest in this portion of the IR, and interspecific divergence in the same region, determined by comparison with an orthologous sequence from the chimpanzee, is also pronounced. Higher levels of diversity in this subregion are not, however, primarily attributable to slippage-mediated repeat unit changes, as nucleotide substitution contributes disproportionately to allelic heterogeneity. An estimate of helical stability in the sequenced region suggests that the hypervariable (RY)n constitutes the major DNA unwinding element (DUE) of the replication origin IR, the location at which the DNA duplex first unwinds and new strand synthesis begins. These findings suggest that the beta-globin IR experiences a higher underlying rate of neutral mutation than do adjacent genomic regions and that enzyme fidelity associated with the initiation of DNA replication at this origin may be compromised. The significance of these findings for our understanding of eukaryotic replication origin biology is discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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