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Genome. 2007 May;50(5):517-24.

Elimination of altered karyotypes by sexual reproduction preserves species identity.

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Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Department of Pathology, 3226 Scott Hall, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI 48201, USA.


Resolving the persistence of sexual reproduction despite its overwhelming costs (known as the paradox of sex) is one of the most persistent challenges of evolutionary biology. In thinking about this paradox, the focus has traditionally been on the evolutionary benefits of genetic recombination in generating offspring diversity and purging deleterious mutations. The similarity of pattern between evolution of organisms and evolution among cancer cells suggests that the asexual process generates more diverse genomes owing to less controlled reproduction systems, while sexual reproduction generates more stable genomes because the sexual process can serve as a mechanism to "filter out" aberrations at the chromosome level. Our reinterpretation of data from the literature strongly supports this hypothesis. Thus, the principal consequence of sexual reproduction is the reduction of drastic genetic diversity at the genome or chromosome level, resulting in the preservation of species identity rather than the provision of evolutionary diversity for future environmental challenges. Genetic recombination does contribute to genetic diversity, but it does so secondarily and within the framework of the chromosomally defined genome.

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