Evolution of genome size by DNA doublings

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Science  07 May 1976:
Vol. 192, Issue 4239, pp. 524-529
DOI: 10.1126/science.1257789


Logarithmic distributions of nucleic acid contents per genome of species within major phylogenetic groups of organisms tend to form several peaks. These peaks appear to represent intragroup doublings of DNA or RNA which, in the case of eukaryotes, are independent of polyploidy. This phenomenon has been termed cryptopolyploidy. There are numerical similarities in peak values for different taxonomic groups. A high degree of order is suggested when minimum values for the major phylogenetic groups are plotted against a series of theoretical doublings. These data demonstrate the apparent existence of an exponential periodicity over eight orders of magnitude, leading us to suggest an evolutionary continuity of doublings of a basic ancestral genome (of about 300 nucleotides), these doublings being independent of both chromosome number and ploidy level. This proposed continuity encompasses most major life forms and is generally concomitant with increasing evolutionary complexity, particularly in the prokaryotes and lower eukaryotes. Our interpretation of the data presented here must currently be viewed as speculative, and we do not propose that genome doubling is the only mechanism for genome evolution. However, we feel that the evidence is sufficient to warrant serious scrutiny of our proposals. We hope that this approach to a synthesis of available data will provoke discussion and will stimulate further work toward either supporting, modifying, or disproving our hypothesis.