Genomic fault zones come and go

The fragile regions in mammalian genomes that are thought to play a key role in evolution go through a "birth and death" process, according to new bioinformatics research performed at the University of California, San Diego.

 
Pavel Pevzner is a UC San Diego computer science professor and an author on the new study. Pevzner studies genomes and genome evolution from a computational perspective in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

The new work, published in the journal Genome Biology on November 30, could help researchers identify the current fragile regions in the human genome – information that may reveal how the human genome will evolve in the future.

''The genomic architecture of every species on Earth changes on the evolutionary time scale and humans are not an exception. What will be the next big change in the human genome remains unknown, but our approach could be useful in determining where in the human genome those changes may occur,'' said Pavel Pevzner, a UC San Diego computer science professor and an author on the new study.

Pevzner studies genomes and genome evolution from a computational perspective in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

The fragile regions of genomes are prone to ''genomic earthquakes'' that can trigger chromosome rearrangements, disrupt genes, alter gene regulation and otherwise play an important role in genome evolution and the emergence of new species. For example, humans have 23 chromosomes while some other apes have 24 chromosomes, a consequence of a genome rearrangement that fused two chromosomes in our ape ancestor into human chromosome 2.

This work was performed by Pevzner and Max Alekseyev – a computer scientist who recently finished his Ph.D. in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Alekseyev is now a computer science professor at the University of South Carolina.