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The Red Queen Model of Recombination Hotspots Evolution in the Light of Archaic and Modern Human Genomes

Abstract : Recombination is an essential process in eukaryotes, which increases diversity by disrupting genetic linkage between loci and ensures the proper segregation of chromosomes during meiosis. In the human genome, recombination events are clustered in hotspots, whose location is determined by the PRDM9 protein. There is evidence that the location of hotspots evolves rapidly, as a consequence of changes in PRDM9 DNA-binding domain. However, the reasons for these changes and the rate at which they occur are not known. In this study, we investigated the evolution of human hotspot loci and of PRDM9 target motifs, both in modern and archaic human lineages (Denisovan) to quantify the dynamic of hotspot turnover during the recent period of human evolution. We show that present-day human hotspots are young: they have been active only during the last 10% of the time since the divergence from chimpanzee, starting to be operating shortly before the split between Denisovans and modern humans. Surprisingly, however, our analyses indicate that Denisovan recombination hotspots did not overlap with modern human ones, despite sharing similar PRDM9 target motifs. We further show that high-affinity PRDM9 target motifs are subject to a strong self-destructive drive, known as biased gene conversion (BGC), which should lead to the loss of the majority of them in the next 3 MYR. This depletion of PRDM9 genomic targets is expected to decrease fitness, and thereby to favor new PRDM9 alleles binding different motifs. Our refined estimates of the age and life expectancy of human hotspots provide empirical evidence in support of the Red Queen hypothesis of recombination hotspots evolution.
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Y Lesecque, S. Glemin, N. Lartillot, D. Mouchiroud, L. Duret. The Red Queen Model of Recombination Hotspots Evolution in the Light of Archaic and Modern Human Genomes. PLoS Genetics, Public Library of Science, 2014, 10, ⟨10.1371/journal.pgen.1004790⟩. ⟨hal-02369480⟩

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