The repatterning of eukaryotic genomes by random genetic drift

Michael Lynch, Louis Marie Bobay, Francesco Catania, Jean François Gout, Mina Rho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Recent observations on rates of mutation, recombination, and random genetic drift highlight the dramatic ways in which fundamental evolutionary processes vary across the divide between unicellular microbes and multicellular eukaryotes. Moreover, population-genetic theory suggests that the range of variation in these parameters is sufficient to explain the evolutionary diversification of many aspects of genome size and gene structure found among phylogenetic lineages. Most notably, large eukaryotic organisms that experience elevated magnitudes of random genetic drift are susceptible to the passive accumulation of mutationally hazardous DNA that would otherwise be eliminated by efficient selection. Substantial evidence also suggests that variation in the population-genetic environment influences patterns of protein evolution, with the emergence of certain kinds of amino-acid substitutions and protein-protein complexes only being possible in populations with relatively small effective sizes. These observations imply that the ultimate origins of many of the major genomic and proteomic disparities between prokaryotes and eukaryotes and among eukaryotic lineages have been molded as much by intrinsic variation in the genetic and cellular features of species as by external ecological forces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-366
Number of pages20
JournalAnnual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics
StatePublished - Jul 13 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Complexity
  • Genome evolution
  • Mutation
  • Protein evolution
  • Recombination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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