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Genetica. 1998;102-103(1-6):359-67.

Mutation and evolution of microsatellites in Drosophila melanogaster.

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Section of Genetics and Development, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Levels of nucleotide polymorphism in the Drosophila melanogaster genome are correlated with rates of recombination. This relationship may be due to hitchhiking of advantageous mutations (selective sweeps) or to continual removal of deleterious mutations from the genome (background selection). One test of the relative contributions of selective sweeps and background selection to the observed levels of variation in the genome of D. melanogaster is to compare levels of nucleotide variability (with a mutation rate on the order of 10(-9) per nucleotide per generation) with more rapidly evolving DNA loci such as microsatellites. This test depends critically on details of the mutational process of microsatellites. In this paper, we summarize our studies of microsatellite characteristics and mutation rates in D. melanogaster. We find that D. melanogaster microsatellites are short and have a mutation rate (6.5 x 10(-6) per locus per generation) several orders of magnitude lower than mammals studied to date. We further show that genetic variation at 18 dinucleotide repeat microsatellites in a population of D. melanogaster from Maryland is correlated with regional rates of recombination. These and other microsatellite data suggest that both background selection and selective sweeps may contribute to the correlation between DNA sequence variation and recombination in Drosophila.

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