Minimal Effect of Ectopic Gene Conversion Among Recent Duplicates in Four Mammalian Genomes Academic Article uri icon


  • Gene conversion between duplicated genes has been implicated in homogenization of gene families and reassortment of variation among paralogs. If conversion is common, this process could lead to errors in gene tree inference and subsequent overestimation of rates of gene duplication. After performing simulations to assess our power to detect gene conversion events, we determined rates of conversion among young, lineage-specific gene duplicates in four mammal species: human, rhesus macaque, mouse, and rat. Gene conversion rates (number of conversion events/number of gene pairs) among young duplicates range from 8.3% in macaque to 18.96% in rat, including a 5% false-positive rate. For all lineages, only 1-3% of the total amount of sequence examined was converted. There is no increase in GC content in conversion tracts compared to flanking regions of the same genes nor in conversion tracts compared to the same region in nonconverted gene-family members, suggesting that ectopic gene conversion does not significantly alter nucleotide composition in these duplicates. While the majority of gene duplicate pairs reside on different chromosomes in mammalian genomes, the majority of gene conversion events occur between duplicates on the same chromosome, even after controlling for divergence between duplicates. Among intrachromosomal duplicates, however, there is no correlation between the probability of conversion and physical distance between duplicates after controlling for divergence. Finally, we use a novel method to show that at most 5-10% of all gene trees involving young duplicates are likely to be incorrect due to gene conversion. We conclude that gene conversion has had only a small effect on mammalian genomes and gene duplicate evolution in general.

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • McGrath, C. L., Casola, C., & Hahn, M. W.

citation count

  • 41

publication date

  • March 2009