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PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45055. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045055. Epub 2012 Sep 18.

Zinc finger binding motifs do not explain recombination rate variation within or between species of Drosophila.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA.


In humans and mice, the Cys(2)His(2) zinc finger protein PRDM9 binds to a DNA sequence motif enriched in hotspots of recombination, possibly modifying nucleosomes, and recruiting recombination machinery to initiate Double Strand Breaks (DSBs). However, since its discovery, some researchers have suggested that the recombinational effect of PRDM9 is lineage or species specific. To test for a conserved role of PRDM9-like proteins across taxa, we use the Drosophila pseudoobscura species group in an attempt to identify recombination associated zinc finger proteins and motifs. We leveraged the conserved amino acid motifs in Cys(2)His(2) zinc fingers to predict nucleotide binding motifs for all Cys(2)His(2) zinc finger proteins in Drosophila pseudoobscura and identified associations with empirical measures of recombination rate. Additionally, we utilized recombination maps from D. pseudoobscura and D. miranda to explore whether changes in the binding motifs between species can account for changes in the recombination landscape, analogous to the effect observed in PRDM9 among human populations. We identified a handful of potential recombination-associated sequence motifs, but the associations are generally tenuous and their biological relevance remains uncertain. Furthermore, we found no evidence that changes in zinc finger DNA binding explains variation in recombination rate between species. We therefore conclude that there is no protein with a DNA sequence specific human-PRDM9-like function in Drosophila. We suggest these findings could be explained by the existence of a different recombination initiation system in Drosophila.

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