Recombination Dynamics of a Human Y-Chromosomal Palindrome: Rapid GC-Biased Gene Conversion, Multi-kilobase Conversion Tracts, and Rare Inversions

Hallast, Pille; Balaresque, Patricia; Bowden, Georgina R.; Ballereau, Stéphane; Jobling, Mark A.
July 2013
PLoS Genetics;Jul2013, Vol. 9 Issue 7, p1
Academic Journal
The male-specific region of the human Y chromosome (MSY) includes eight large inverted repeats (palindromes) in which arm-to-arm similarity exceeds 99.9%, due to gene conversion activity. Here, we studied one of these palindromes, P6, in order to illuminate the dynamics of the gene conversion process. We genotyped ten paralogous sequence variants (PSVs) within the arms of P6 in 378 Y chromosomes whose evolutionary relationships within the SNP-defined Y phylogeny are known. This allowed the identification of 146 historical gene conversion events involving individual PSVs, occurring at a rate of 2.9–8.4×10−4 events per generation. A consideration of the nature of nucleotide change and the ancestral state of each PSV showed that the conversion process was significantly biased towards the fixation of G or C nucleotides (GC-biased), and also towards the ancestral state. Determination of haplotypes by long-PCR allowed likely co-conversion of PSVs to be identified, and suggested that conversion tract lengths are large, with a mean of 2068 bp, and a maximum in excess of 9 kb. Despite the frequent formation of recombination intermediates implied by the rapid observed gene conversion activity, resolution via crossover is rare: only three inversions within P6 were detected in the sample. An analysis of chimpanzee and gorilla P6 orthologs showed that the ancestral state bias has existed in all three species, and comparison of human and chimpanzee sequences with the gorilla outgroup confirmed that GC bias of the conversion process has apparently been active in both the human and chimpanzee lineages.


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