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Heredity (Edinb). 2012 Jan;108(1):37-41. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2011.99. Epub 2011 Nov 2.

Intrachromosomal rearrangements in avian genome evolution: evidence for regions prone to breakpoints.

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School of Biosciences, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK.


It is generally believed that the organization of avian genomes remains highly conserved in evolution as chromosome number is constant and comparative chromosome painting demonstrated there to be very few interchromosomal rearrangements. The recent sequencing of the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) genome allowed an assessment of the number of intrachromosomal rearrangements between it and the chicken (Gallus gallus) genome, revealing a surprisingly high number of intrachromosomal rearrangements. With the publication of the turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) genome it has become possible to describe intrachromosomal rearrangements between these three important avian species, gain insight into the direction of evolutionary change and assess whether breakpoint regions are reused in birds. To this end, we aligned entire chromosomes between chicken, turkey and zebra finch, identifying syntenic blocks of at least 250 kb. Potential optimal pathways of rearrangements between each of the three genomes were determined, as was a potential Galliform ancestral organization. From this, our data suggest that around one-third of chromosomal breakpoint regions may recur during avian evolution, with 10% of breakpoints apparently recurring in different lineages. This agrees with our previous hypothesis that mechanisms of genome evolution are driven by hotspots of non-allelic homologous recombination.

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