Variation in recombination rate across the genome: evidence and implications

Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2002 Dec;12(6):657-63. doi: 10.1016/s0959-437x(02)00358-1.


Recent data from humans and other species provide convincing evidence of variation in recombination rate in different genomic regions. Comparison of physical and genetic maps reveals variation on a scale of megabases, with substantial differences between sexes. Recombination is often suppressed near centromeres and elevated near telomeres, but neither of these observations is true for all chromosomes. In humans, patterns of linkage disequilibrium and experimental measures of recombination from sperm-typing reveal dramatic hotspots of recombination on a scale of kilobases. Genome-wide variation in the amount of crossing-over may be due to variation in the density of hotspots, the intensity of hotspots, or both. Theoretical models of selection and linkage predict that genetic variation will be reduced in regions of low recombination, and this prediction is supported by data from several species. Heterogeneity in rates of crossing-over provides both an opportunity and a challenge for identifying disease genes: as associations occur in blocks, genomic regions containing disease loci may be identified with relatively few markers, yet identifying the causal mutations is unlikely to be achieved through associations alone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn
  • Humans
  • Recombination, Genetic*