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Mol Biol Evol. 2002 Jul;19(7):1122-7.

Recombination or mutational hot spots in human mtDNA?

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Molecular and Computational Biology, University of Southern California, CA 90089-1340, USA.


Awadalla, Eyre-Walker, and Maynard Smith (1999) recently argued that there might be recombination in human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Their claim was based on their observation of decaying linkage disequilibrium (LD) as a function of physical distance. Their study was much criticized, and follow-up studies have failed to find any evidence for recombination. We argue that the criticisms levied, even if correct, could not possibly explain the findings of Awadalla, Eyre-Walker, and Maynard Smith (1999). Nonetheless, the test proposed by Awadalla, Eyre-Walker, and Maynard Smith (1999 ) is not robust because recombination is not the only explanation for decay of LD. We show that such a pattern can be caused by mutational hot spots as well. However, a closer look at the data suggests that the pattern observed was not caused by mutational hot spots but rather by chance. Thus, there appears to be no evidence for recombination in the mtDNA polymorphism data. In conclusion, we discuss the possibility of detecting recombination in mtDNA and the implications of its existence.

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