On the structural differences between markers and genomic AC microsatellites
Pardi, F., Sibly, R. M., Wilkinson, M. J. and Whittaker, J. C. (2005) On the structural differences between markers and genomic AC microsatellites. Journal of Molecular Evolution, 60 (5). pp. 688-693. ISSN 0022-2844
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1007/s00239-004-0274-6
AC microsatellites have proved particularly useful as genetic markers. For some purposes, such as in population biology, the inferences drawn depend on the quantitative values of their mutation rates. This, together with intrinsic biological interest, has led to widespread study of microsatellite mutational mechanisms. Now, however, inconsistencies are appearing in the results of marker-based versus non-marker-based studies of mutational mechanisms. The reasons for this have not been investigated, but one possibility, pursued here, is that the differences result from structural differences between markers and genomic microsatellites. Here we report a comparison between the CEPH AC marker microsatellites and the global population of AC microsatellites in the human genome. AC marker microsatellites are longer than the global average. Controlling for length, marker microsatellites contain on average fewer interruptions, and have longer segments, than their genomic counterparts. Related to this, marker microsatellites show a greater tendency to concentrate the majority of their repeats into one segment. These differences plausibly result from scientists selecting markers for their high polymorphism. In addition to the structural differences, there are differences in the base composition of flanking sequences, marker flanking regions being richer in C and G and poorer in A and T. Our results indicate that there are profound differences between marker and genomic microsatellites that almost certainly affect their mutation rates. There is a need for a unified model of mutational mechanisms that accounts for both marker-derived and genomic observations. A suggestion is made as to how this might be done.