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Marsupials as models for understanding the role of chromosome rearrangements in evolution and disease

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Chromosome rearrangements have been implicated in diseases, such as cancer, and speciation, but it remains unclear whether rearrangements are causal or merely a consequence of these processes. Two marsupial families with very different rates of karyotype evolution provide excellent models in which to study the role of chromosome rearrangements in a disease and evolutionary context. The speciose family Dasyuridae displays remarkable karyotypic conservation, with all species examined to date possessing nearly identical karyotypes. Despite the seemingly high degree of chromosome stability within this family, they appear prone to developing tumours, including transmissible devil facial tumours. In contrast, chromosome rearrangements have been frequent in the evolution of the species-rich family Macropodidae, which displays a high level of karyotypic diversity. In particular, the genus Petrogale (rock-wallabies) displays an extraordinary level of chromosome rearrangement among species. For six parapatric Petrogale species, it appears that speciation has essentially been caught in the act, providing an opportunity to determine whether chromosomal rearrangements are a cause or consequence of speciation in this system. This review highlights the reasons that these two marsupial families are excellent models for testing hypotheses for hotspots of chromosome rearrangement and deciphering the role of chromosome rearrangements in disease and speciation.




Deakin, J. E., & Kruger-Andrzejewska, M. (2016, September 1). Marsupials as models for understanding the role of chromosome rearrangements in evolution and disease. Chromosoma. Springer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH.

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