Amongst Cercopithecidae, the species of the Cercopithecini tribe underwent a very active chromosome evolution, principally by fissions, which increased their chromosome number up to 72. In contrast, all the species of Papionini have fairly similar karyotypes with 42 chromosomes. In animals, nucleolus organizer regions (NORs) are generally considered as instable structures, which frequently vary in size, number, and location at both infra- and interspecific levels. Although in Cercopithecinae the NORs, involved in breaks, exchanges, and translocations, behave like fragile sites in somatic cells, their number and location appear to be very stable between species. Fluorescence in situ hybridization of a 28S rDNA probe on metaphase chromosomes displayed a unique interstitial location in either an acrocentric pair (in 12 species of Cercopithecini) or a metacentric pair (in 6 species of Papionini). A non-exhaustive survey of literature data on NOR location in other primates shows that numerical variations of the NORs principally depend on their location: most multiple NORs are in terminal positions, while almost all unique NORs are in interstitial positions. We propose that this correlation is the consequence of the selection against gametic imbalances involving the chromosomal material distal to the NORs, which is effective when they are interstitially, but not terminally, located. Thus, the consequences of the interstitial NOR instability for reproduction are essentially limited to their size variations, as observed in Cercopithecidae.
Keywords: 28S rDNA; AgNOR; Cercopithecinae; NOR (in-)stability; NOR location; Primates.
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