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Chromosome breakpoints contribute to genetic variation
Date:4/23/2009

sistant regions of chromosomes. Those in the breakpoint regions code for proteins involved in immunity and muscle contraction, for example. Rearrangements may cause copies of such genes to increase or change the way they are regulated. These new sources of variation may then be subject to natural selection, the mechanism of evolution proposed by Charles Darwin.

The genes in more stable parts of the chromosomes are involved in growth and development, particularly embryonic development. Disruptions to these genes would probably be harmful to the organism as a whole, Lewin said.

"If the chromosome rearrangement is really bad for the organism, it will be eliminated. It won't survive," he said. "So if something persists in the genome, it generally has to either be neutral, or it has to be of some benefit."

Evolutionary biologists have historically focused on small changes in the genome such as point mutations or the insertion of viral genes that sometimes lead to the development of new forms, Lewin said.

"But by overlooking the importance of chromosome rearrangements, these earthquakes in the genome, they may have missed a key component of the mechanism for generating the variation used by natural selection," he said.


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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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