Analysis of archaic human haplotypes suggest 5-hmC to act as epigenetic guide for meiotic point recombination
Meiotic point recombination refers to homologue recombination events affecting only individual SNPs. Driven mostly by gene conversion, it is common process that allows for a gradual adaptation and maturation of haplotypes during genetic evolution. In contrast to crossover recombination it is not tied to predetermined recombination sites and therefore assumed to occur largely randomly. Our analysis of archaic human haplotypes however revealed striking differences in the local point recombination rate. A linkage-study of 1.9 million SNPs defined by the sequence of denisovan hominids revealed low rates in introns and quiescent intergenic regions but high rates in splice sites, exons, 5- and 3-UTRs, and CpG islands. Correlations with ChIP-Seq tracks from ENCODE and other public sources identified a number of epigenetic modifications, that associated directly with these recombination events. A particularly tight association was observed for 5-hydroxymethylcytosine marks (5hmC). The mark was enriched in virtually all of the functional regions associated with elevated point recombination rates, including CpG islands and poised bivalent regions. As intermediate of oxidative demethylation, 5hmC is also a marker of recently opened gene loci. The data, thus, supports a model of guided evolution, in which point recombination is directed by 5hmC marks towards the functionally relevant regions.
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