How genomes evolve and their future

Genome evolution and extinction after Darwin
Genome evolution and extinction after Darwin

296. Heslop-Harrison JS. 2012. Genome evolution: extinction, continuation or explosion? Current Opinion in Plant Biology 15:115–121. Subscription:
Free Author self-archive preprint here.

– Genome-scale evolution involves mutation, chromosomal rearrangements, hybridization and polyploidy
– Repeated sequences, not genes, can be localized or dispersed in the genome and make up most of the DNA
– Evolutionary processes may be continuous or episodic and have contrasting long and short-term consequences
– Sequences, synthetic hybrids, comparative genomics and modelling link genome behaviour and consequences
– Understanding genome evolution is critical for biodiversity conservation and breeding sustainable crops

Darwin recognized the processes of speciation and the extinctions of species. We now understand many of the genome-scale processes occurring during evolution involving mutations, amplification, loss or homogenization of sequences; rearrangement, fusion and fission of chromosomes; and horizontal transfer of genes or genomes through polyploidy or other mechanisms. DNA sequence information, combined with appropriate informatic tools and experimental approaches including generation of synthetic hybrids, comparison of genotypes across environments, and modelling of genomic responses, is now letting us link genome behaviour with its consequences. The understanding of genome evolution will be of critical value both for conservation of the biodiversity of the plant kingdom and addressing the challenges of breeding new and more sustainable crops to feed the human population.

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