Microsatellite DMA sequences are rapidly becoming the dominant source of nuclear genetic markers for a wide range of applications, from genome mapping to forensic testing to population studies. If misinterpretation is to be avoided, it is vital that we understand fully the way in which microsatellite sequences evolve. We have therefore compared allele length distributions for 42 microsatellites in humans with their homologues in a range of related primates. We find a highly significant trend for the loci to be longer in humans, showing that microsatellites can evolve directionally and at different rates in closely related species.
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