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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2019 Aug 26;58-59:49-54. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2019.07.011. [Epub ahead of print]

Gene conversion generates evolutionary novelty that fuels genetic conflicts.

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Section of Molecular Biology, Division of Biological Sciences, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA. Electronic address:
Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, MO, USA; Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS, USA. Electronic address:


Genetic conflicts arise when the evolutionary interests of two genetic elements are not aligned. Conflicts between genomes (e.g. pathogen versus host) or within the same genome (e.g. internal parasitic DNA sequences versus the rest of the host genome) can both foster 'molecular arms races', in which genes on both sides of the conflict rapidly evolve due to bouts of adaptation and counter-adaptation. Importantly, a source of genetic novelty is needed to fuel these arms races. In this review, we highlight gene conversion as a major force in generating the novel alleles on which selection can act. Using examples from both intergenomic and intragenomic conflicts, we feature the mechanisms by which gene conversion facilitates the rapid evolution of genes in conflict.


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