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Comparative genomics reveals birth and death of fragile regions in mammalian evolution

Max A Alekseyev1 and Pavel A Pevzner2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Computer Science & Engineering, University of South Carolina, 301 Main St., Columbia, SC 29208, USA

2 Department of Computer Science & Engineering, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093, USA

Genome Biology 2010, 11:R117  doi:10.1186/gb-2010-11-11-r117

Published: 30 November 2010

Abstract

Background

An important question in genome evolution is whether there exist fragile regions (rearrangement hotspots) where chromosomal rearrangements are happening over and over again. Although nearly all recent studies supported the existence of fragile regions in mammalian genomes, the most comprehensive phylogenomic study of mammals raised some doubts about their existence.

Results

Here we demonstrate that fragile regions are subject to a birth and death process, implying that fragility has a limited evolutionary lifespan.

Conclusions

This finding implies that fragile regions migrate to different locations in different mammals, explaining why there exist only a few chromosomal breakpoints shared between different lineages. The birth and death of fragile regions as a phenomenon reinforces the hypothesis that rearrangements are promoted by matching segmental duplications and suggests putative locations of the currently active fragile regions in the human genome.