The many landscapes of recombination in Drosophila melanogaster

PLoS Genet. 2012;8(10):e1002905. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002905. Epub 2012 Oct 11.


Recombination is a fundamental biological process with profound evolutionary implications. Theory predicts that recombination increases the effectiveness of selection in natural populations. Yet, direct tests of this prediction have been restricted to qualitative trends due to the lack of detailed characterization of recombination rate variation across genomes and within species. The use of imprecise recombination rates can also skew population genetic analyses designed to assess the presence and mode of selection across genomes. Here we report the first integrated high-resolution description of genomic and population variation in recombination, which also distinguishes between the two outcomes of meiotic recombination: crossing over (CO) and gene conversion (GC). We characterized the products of 5,860 female meioses in Drosophila melanogaster by genotyping a total of 139 million informative SNPs and mapped 106,964 recombination events at a resolution down to 2 kilobases. This approach allowed us to generate whole-genome CO and GC maps as well as a detailed description of variation in recombination among individuals of this species. We describe many levels of variation in recombination rates. At a large-scale (100 kb), CO rates exhibit extreme and highly punctuated variation along chromosomes, with hot and coldspots. We also show extensive intra-specific variation in CO landscapes that is associated with hotspots at low frequency in our sample. GC rates are more uniformly distributed across the genome than CO rates and detectable in regions with reduced or absent CO. At a local scale, recombination events are associated with numerous sequence motifs and tend to occur within transcript regions, thus suggesting that chromatin accessibility favors double-strand breaks. All these non-independent layers of variation in recombination across genomes and among individuals need to be taken into account in order to obtain relevant estimates of recombination rates, and should be included in a new generation of population genetic models of the interaction between selection and linkage.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Chromosomes
  • Crossing Over, Genetic
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Female
  • Gene Conversion
  • Genome
  • Male
  • Nucleotide Motifs
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Recombination, Genetic*