CpG islands, genes and isochores in the genomes of vertebrates

Gene. 1991 Oct 15;106(2):185-95. doi: 10.1016/0378-1119(91)90198-k.


We have shown that human genes associated with CpG islands increase in number as they increase in % of guanine + cytosine (GC) levels, and that most genes associated with CpG islands are located in the GC-richest compartment of the human genome. This is an independent confirmation of the concentration gradient of CpG islands (detected as HpaII tiny fragments, or HTF) which was demonstrated in the genome of warm-blooded vertebrates [Aïssani and Bernardi, Gene 106 (1991) 173-183]. We then reassessed the location of CpG islands using the data currently available and confirmed that CpG islands are most frequently located in the 5'-flanking sequences of genes and that they overlap genes to variable extents. We have shown that such extents increase with the increasing GC levels of genes, the GC-richest genes being completely included in CpG islands. Under such circumstances, we have investigated the properties of the 'extragenic' CpG islands located in the 5'-flanking segments of homologous genes from both warm- and cold-blooded vertebrates. We have confirmed that, in cold-blooded vertebrates, CpG islands are often absent; when present, they have lower GC and CpG levels; the latter attain, however, statistically expected values. Finally, we have shown that CpG doublets increase with the increasing GC of exons, introns and intergenic sequences (including 'extragenic' CpG islands) in the genomes from both warm- and cold-blooded vertebrates. The correlations found are the same for both classes of vertebrates, and are similar for exons, introns and intergenic sequences (including 'extragenic' CpG islands). The findings just outlined indicate that the origin and evolution of CpG islands in the vertebrate genome are associated with compositional transitions (GC increases) in genes and isochores.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Composition / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Evolution
  • Codon / genetics
  • Cytosine / analysis*
  • Dinucleoside Phosphates / genetics*
  • Exons / genetics
  • Genes / genetics
  • Guanine / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Introns / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics*
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Vertebrates / genetics*


  • Codon
  • Dinucleoside Phosphates
  • cytidylyl-3'-5'-guanosine
  • Guanine
  • Cytosine