Gene conversion is an error in DNA genetic recombination, which occurs during meiotic division. It is a process by which DNA sequence information is transferred from one DNA helix (which remains unchanged) to another DNA helix, whose sequence is altered. It is one of the ways a gene may be mutated to create a cancerous gene.
This conversion of one allele to the other is due to inappropriate base mismatch repair during recombination: if one of the four strands during meiosis pairs up with one of the four strands of a different chromosome, as can occur if there is sequence homology, mismatch repair can alter the sequence of one of the chromosomes, to match identically that on the other.
Normally, an organism that has inherited different copies of a gene from each of its parents is called heterozygous. This is generically represented as genotype: Aa (i.e. one copy of variant (allele) 'A', and one copy of allele 'a'). When a heterozygote creates gametes by meiosis, the alleles normally split, and end up in a 1:1 ratio in the resulting cells. However, in gene conversion, the ratio becomes other than the expected 1A:1a is observed, in which A and a are the two alleles. Such examples are 3A:1a, 1A:3a, 5A:3a or 3A:5a. In other words, there can for example be three times as many A alleles than a alleles expressed in the daughter cells, as is the case in 3A:1a.
Importance of Gene Conversion in the Cohesiveness of the Gene Pool
Gene conversion acts to homogenize the DNA sequences composing the gene pool of a species. Every gene conversion event takes as its substrate two DNA sequences that are homologous but not identical, because of sequence mismatches and yields two identical DNA sequences. Gene conversion forms the cohesive force that links DNA sequences within different organisms of a species. Over time, gene conversion events yield a homogenous set of DNA sequences, both for allelic forms of a gene and for multi gene families. Interspersed repeats act to break up this linkage and catalyze the formation of novel gene during evolution.
- Gene+conversion at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
- images: http://www.web-books.com/moBio/Free/Ch8D4.htm and http://www.web-books.com/moBio/Free/Ch8D2.htm
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