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Mol Biol Evol. 2018 Nov 1;35(11):2762-2772. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msy174.

Intragenic Meiotic Crossovers Generate Novel Alleles with Transgressive Expression Levels.

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Department of Plant Pathology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS.
Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University, Ames, IA.
Department of Agriculture and Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE.
Roche Sequencing Solutions, 500 S Rosa Road, Madison, WI.
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, Microbial and Plant Genomics Institute, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN.
Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN.
Center for Plant Molecular Biology, University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany.
Department of Plant Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.


Meiotic recombination is an evolutionary force that generates new genetic diversity upon which selection can act. Whereas multiple studies have assessed genome-wide patterns of recombination and specific cases of intragenic recombination, few studies have assessed intragenic recombination genome-wide in higher eukaryotes. We identified recombination events within or near genes in a population of maize recombinant inbred lines (RILs) using RNA-sequencing data. Our results are consistent with case studies that have shown that intragenic crossovers cluster at the 5' ends of some genes. Further, we identified cases of intragenic crossovers that generate transgressive transcript accumulation patterns, that is, recombinant alleles displayed higher or lower levels of expression than did nonrecombinant alleles in any of ∼100 RILs, implicating intragenic recombination in the generation of new variants upon which selection can act. Thousands of apparent gene conversion events were identified, allowing us to estimate the genome-wide rate of gene conversion at SNP sites (4.9 × 10-5). The density of syntenic genes (i.e., those conserved at the same genomic locations since the divergence of maize and sorghum) exhibits a substantial correlation with crossover frequency, whereas the density of nonsyntenic genes (i.e., those which have transposed or been lost subsequent to the divergence of maize and sorghum) shows little correlation, suggesting that crossovers occur at higher rates in syntenic genes than in nonsyntenic genes. Increased rates of crossovers in syntenic genes could be either a consequence of the evolutionary conservation of synteny or a biological process that helps to maintain synteny.

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