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Open Access Research article

Association of poly-purine/poly-pyrimidine sequences with meiotic recombination hot spots

Andrew TM Bagshaw1*, Joel PW Pitt2 and Neil J Gemmell1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

2 Bioprotection and Ecology Division, Lincoln University, New Zealand

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BMC Genomics 2006, 7:179  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-7-179

Published: 18 July 2006



Meiotic recombination events have been found to concentrate in 1–2.5 kilo base regions, but these recombination hot spots do not share a consensus sequence and why they occur at specific sites is not fully understood. Some previous evidence suggests that poly-purine/poly-pyrimidine (poly-pu/py) tracts (PPTs), a class of sequence with distinctive biochemical properties, could be involved in recombination, but no general association of PPTs with meiotic recombination hot spots has previously been reported.


We used computational methods to investigate in detail the relationship between PPTs and hot spots. We show statistical associations of PPT frequency with hot spots of meiotic recombination initiating lesions, double-strand breaks, in the genome of the yeast S. cerevisiae and with experimentally well characterized human meiotic recombination hot spots. Supporting a possible role of poly-pu/py-rich sequences in hot spot recombination, we also found that all three single nucleotide polymorphisms previously shown to be associated with human hot spot activity changes occur within sequence contexts of 14 bp or longer that are 85% or more poly-pu/py and at least 70% G/C. These polymorphisms are all close to the hot spot mid points. Comparing the sequences of experimentally characterized human hot spots with the orthologous regions of the chimpanzee genome previously shown not to contain hot spots, we found that in all five cases in which comparisons for the hot spot central regions are possible with publicly available sequence data, there are differences near the human hot spot mid points within sequences 14 bp or longer consisting of more than 80% poly-pu/py and at least 50% G/C.


Our results, along with previous evidence for the unique biochemical properties and recombination-stimulating potential of poly-pu/py-rich sequences, suggest that the possible functional involvement of this type of sequence in meiotic recombination hot spots deserves further experimental exploration.