Rates and Patterns of Mutation in Microsatellite DNA

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Sequence comparisons of orthologous microsatellite loci in cattle and sheep revealed that the substitution rate in microsatellite flanking sequences does not differ from the rate in presumably neutrally evolving intron sequences. This suggests that microsatellites are generally located in regions that are not subjected to selection. Interestingly, a propensity for substitutions to occur in the border region between flanking and repeat sequence was found.Pedigree analysis of large numbers of barn swallows revealed extremely high mutation frequencies for the tetranucleotide HrU6 and pentanucleotide HrU10 repeat loci. A detailed analysis showed that both the rate and the pattern of mutation differed significantly between the two loci.Further analysis of HrU6 and HrU10 mutations, as well as mutation data for another hypermutable locus (HrU9) in barn swallows, revealed that mutations were more likely to arise in some families than others. This was partly, but probably not only, due to an effect of allele length on mutation rate. The mutation rate was found to vary between colonies of breeding birds, but, overall, not between two different populations.Single molecule genotyping of DNA prepared from human sperm cells was used to detect mutations at the tetranucleotide repeat D21S1245. A tenfold difference in mutation rate between alleles was found. Three phylogenetically distinct allele lineages could be defined, which differed significantly in mutation rate. Unexpectedly, the mutation rate was not found to increase with male age. Microsatellites are commonly applied in a wide range of genetic contexts including linkage mapping, forensic science and population genetics. Obtaining a detailed picture of the evolution of these tandem repeats is important in order to fully understand how to interpret microsatellite data. In addition, studies of the mechanisms underlying microsatellite mutation will provide insights in the processes that shape the eukaryotic genome.This thesis demonstrates that microsatellite evolution is a highly heterogeneous process that is dependent on more factors than was previously thought. As the rate and pattern may vary between loci, caution must therefore be taken when building models to handle microsatellite data.