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Genetics. 1986 Apr;112(4):947-62.

The evolution of restricted recombination and the accumulation of repeated DNA sequences.


We suggest hypotheses to account for two major features of chromosomal organization in higher eukaryotes. The first of these is the general restriction of crossing over in the neighborhood of centromeres and telomeres. We propose that this is a consequence of selection for reduced rates of unequal exchange between repeated DNA sequences for which the copy number is subject to stabilizing selection: microtubule binding sites, in the case of centromeres, and the short repeated sequences needed for terminal replication of a linear DNA molecule, in the case of telomeres. An association between proximal crossing over and nondisjunction would also favor the restriction of crossing over near the centromere. The second feature is the association between highly repeated DNA sequences of no obvious functional significance and regions of restricted crossing over. We show that highly repeated sequences are likely to persist longest (over evolutionary time) when crossing over is infrequent. This is because unequal exchange among repeated sequences generates single copy sequences, and a population that becomes fixed for a single copy sequence by drift remains in this state indefinitely (in the absence of gene amplification processes). Increased rates of exchange thus speed up the process of stochastic loss of repeated sequences.

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