PLoS Genetics (early online release)
The influence of recombination on human genetic diversity
Chris C. A. Spencer et al.
In humans the rate of recombination, as measured on the megabase scale, is positively associated with the level of genetic variation, as measured at the genic scale. Despite considerable debate it is not clear whether these factors are causally linked or, if they are, whether this is driven by the repeated action of adaptive evolution or molecular processes such as double-strand break formation and mismatch repair. We introduce three innovations to the analysis of recombination and diversity; fine-scale genetic maps estimated from genotype experiments that identify recombination hotspots at the kilobase scale, analysis of an entire human chromosome, and the use of wavelet techniques to identify correlations acting at different scales. We show that recombination influences genetic diversity only at the level of recombination hotspots. Hotspots are also associated with local increases in GC content and the relative frequency of GC-increasing mutations, but have no effect on substitution rates. Broad-scale association between recombination and diversity is explained through covariance of both factors with base composition. These results are the first evidence of a direct and local influence of recombination hotspots on genetic variation and the fate of individual mutations. However, that hotspots have no influence on substitution rates suggests that they are too ephemeral on an evolutionary time scale to have a strong influence on broader scale patterns of base composition and mutation rate evolution.