Prdm9, a Major Determinant of Meiotic Recombination Hotspots, Is Not Functional in Dogs and Their Wild Relatives, Wolves and Coyotes
Meiotic recombination is a fundamental process needed for the correct segregation of chromosomes during meiosis in sexually reproducing organisms. In humans, 80% of crossovers are estimated to occur at specific areas of the genome called recombination hotspots. Recently, a protein called PRDM9 was identified as a major player in determining the location of genome-wide meiotic recombination hotspots in humans and mice. The origin of this protein seems to be ancient in evolutionary time, as reflected by its fairly conserved structure in lineages that diverged over 700 million years ago. Despite its important role, there are many animal groups in which Prdm9 is absent (e.g. birds, reptiles, amphibians, diptera) and it has been suggested to have disruptive mutations and thus to be a pseudogene in dogs. Because of the dog's history through domestication and artificial selection, we wanted to confirm the presence of a disrupted Prdm9 gene in dogs and determine whether this was exclusive of this species or whether it also occurred in its wild ancestor, the wolf, and in a close relative, the coyote. We sequenced the region in the dog genome that aligned to the last exon of the human Prdm9, containing the entire zinc finger domain, in 4 dogs, 17 wolves and 2 coyotes. Our results show that the three canid species possess mutations that likely make this gene non functional. Because these mutations are shared across the three species, they must have appeared prior to the split of the wolf and the coyote, millions of years ago, and are not related to domestication. In addition, our results suggest that in these three canid species recombination does not occur at hotspots or hotspot location is controlled through a mechanism yet to be determined.