Stable recombination hotspots in birds

Recombination is a fundamental cellular process that in most sexually reproducing species ensures the proper alignment and segregation of chromosomes.  In mice and in apes, the location of recombination hotspots in the genome is specified by the DNA-binding protein PRDM9. However, this gene appears to be absent from many other vertebrate species, including birds. To study the evolution and determinants of recombination in species lacking the gene that encodes PRDM9, the laboratory of Molly Przeworski inferred fine-scale genetic maps from population resequencing data for two bird species: the zebra finch and the closely related long-tailed finch. They found that both species have recombination hotspots, which are enriched near functional genomic elements. Unlike in mice and apes, most hotspots are shared between the two species, and their conservation seems to extend over tens of millions of years. These observations suggest that in the absence of PRDM9, recombination targets functional features that both enable access to the genome and constrain its evolution. [read the Science paper]

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