Live hot, die young: transmission distortion in recombination hotspots

PLoS Genet. 2007 Mar 9;3(3):e35. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0030035. Epub 2007 Jan 12.


There is strong evidence that hotspots of meiotic recombination in humans are transient features of the genome. For example, hotspot locations are not shared between human and chimpanzee. Biased gene conversion in favor of alleles that locally disrupt hotspots is a possible explanation of the short lifespan of hotspots. We investigate the implications of such a bias on human hotspots and their evolution. Our results demonstrate that gene conversion bias is a sufficiently strong force to produce the observed lack of sharing of intense hotspots between species, although sharing may be much more common for weaker hotspots. We investigate models of how hotspots arise, and find that only models in which hotspot alleles do not initially experience drive are consistent with observations of rather hot hotspots in the human genome. Mutations acting against drive cannot successfully introduce such hotspots into the population, even if there is direct selection for higher recombination rates, such as to ensure correct segregation during meiosis. We explore the impact of hotspot alleles on patterns of haplotype variation, and show that such alleles mask their presence in population genetic data, making them difficult to detect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Chromosome Segregation / genetics
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Conversion / genetics
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetics, Population
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic
  • Pan troglodytes / genetics
  • Recombination, Genetic / genetics*
  • Species Specificity