On the evolution of multigene families

Theor Popul Biol. 1983 Apr;23(2):216-40. doi: 10.1016/0040-5809(83)90015-1.


Multigene families are classified into three groups: small families as exemplified by hemoglobin genes of mammals; middlesize multigene families, by genes of mammalian histocompatibility antigens; and large multigene families, by variable region genes of immunoglobulins. Facts and theories on these evolving multigene families are reviewed, with special reference to the population genetics of their concerted evolution. It is shown that multigene families are evolving under continued occurrence of unequal (but homologous) crossing-over and gene conversion, and that mechanisms for maintaining genetic variability are totally different from the conventional models of population genetics. Thus, in view of widespread occurrence of multigene families in genomes of higher organisms, the evolutionary theory based mainly on change of gene frequency at each locus would appear to need considerable revision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena*
  • Eukaryotic Cells / physiology*
  • Gene Conversion
  • Genes*
  • Genetics, Population
  • Molecular Biology
  • Selection, Genetic