The physical and functional organizations of a genome are correlated outcomes of evolution. Inbred strains of mice provide a unique opportunity for exploring these relationships, representing as they do, diverse genomes originally separated by millions of generations that were then scrambled in the laboratory and subjected to intense selection during inbreeding to homozygosity. Here we show that the resulting pattern of chromosome organization includes regional domains of functionally related elements that promote the co-inheritance and survival of compatible sets of alleles. There are also patterns of linkage disequilibrium between domains on separate chromosomes; these are distinctly non-random and form networks with scale-free architecture. The strong conservation of gene order among mammals suggests that the domains and networks we find likely characterize all mammals, and possibly beyond.
(c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.