Interpretation of karyotype evolution should consider chromosome structural constraints

Schubert I, Lysak MA

Trends in Genetics 27: 207-216.


Comparative genetics, genomics and cytogenetics provide tools to trace the evolutionary history of extant genomes. Yet, the interpretation of rapidly increasing genomic data is not always done in agreement with constraints determined by chromosome structural features and by insights obtained from chromosome mutagenesis. The terms 'non-reciprocal chromosome translocation', 'chromosome fusion' and 'centromere shift' used to explain genomic differences among organisms are misleading and often do not correctly reflect the mechanisms of chromosome rearrangements underlying the evolutionary karyotypic variation. Here, we (re)interpret evolutionary genome alterations in a parsimonious way and demonstrate that results of comparative genomics and comparative chromosome painting can be explained on the basis of known primary and secondary chromosome rearrangements. Therefore, some widespread terms used in comparative and evolutionary genomics should be either avoided (e.g. non-reciprocal translocation) or redefined (e.g. chromosome fusion and centromere shift).