Evolution of repeated DNA sequences by unequal crossover

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Science  13 Feb 1976:
Vol. 191, Issue 4227, pp. 528-535
DOI: 10.1126/science.1251186


It is often supposed that highly repetitious DNA's arise only as a result of unusual mechanisms or in response to selective pressure. My arguments and simulations suggest, by contrast, that a pattern of tandem repeats is the natural state of DNA whose sequence is not maintained by selection. The simulations show that periodicities can develop readily from nonreptitious DNA as a result of the random accumulation of random mutations and random homology-dependent unequal crossovers. The lengths of these periodicities, and the patterns of subrepeats within them, would fluctuate in evolution, with the probability of a given pattern being dependent on the unknown exact nature of the crossover mechanism. Qualitatively, then, unequal crossover provides a reasonable and uncontrived explanation for the prevalence of highly repeated sequences in DNA and for the patterns of periodicity they evince.

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