Meiosis and beyond - understanding the mechanistic and evolutionary processes shaping the germline genome.


Bergero R(1), Ellis P(2), Haerty W(3), Larcombe L(4), Macaulay I(3), Mehta T(3), Mogensen M(5), Murray D(5), Nash W(3), Neale MJ(6), O'Connor R(2), Ottolini C(7), Peel N(3), Ramsey L(8), Skinner B(9), Suh A(5)(10), Summers M(2)(11), Sun Y(12), Tidy A(13), Rahbari R(14), Rathje C(2), Immler S(5).
Author information:
(1)Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH9 3JT, U.K.
(2)School of Biosciences, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NJ, U.K.
(3)Earlham Institute, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, NR4 7UZ, U.K.
(4)Applied Exomics Ltd, Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, Stevenage, SG1 2FX, U.K.
(5)School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, U.K.
(6)Genome Damage and Stability Centre, School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9RH, U.K.
(7)The Evewell, 61 Harley Street, London, W1G 8QU, U.K.
(8)The James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee, DD2 5DA, U.K.
(9)School of Life Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester, CO4 3SQ, U.K.
(10)Department of Organismal Biology, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, Uppsala, 752 36, Sweden.
(11)The Bridge Centre, 1 St Thomas Street, London Bridge, London, SE1 9RY, U.K.
(12)Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Colney Ln, Norwich, NR4 7UG, U.K.
(13)School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Plant Science, Sutton Bonington Campus, Sutton Bonington, LE12 5RD, U.K.
(14)Wellcome Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambridge, CB10 1SA, U.K.


The separation of germ cell populations from the soma is part of the evolutionary transition to multicellularity. Only genetic information present in the germ cells will be inherited by future generations, and any molecular processes affecting the germline genome are therefore likely to be passed on. Despite its prevalence across taxonomic kingdoms, we are only starting to understand details of the underlying micro-evolutionary processes occurring at the germline genome level. These include segregation, recombination, mutation and selection and can occur at any stage during germline differentiation and mitotic germline proliferation to meiosis and post-meiotic gamete maturation. Selection acting on germ cells at any stage from the diploid germ cell to the haploid gametes may cause significant deviations from Mendelian inheritance and may be more widespread than previously assumed. The mechanisms that affect and potentially alter the genomic sequence and allele frequencies in the germline are pivotal to our understanding of heritability. With the rise of new sequencing technologies, we are now able to address some of these unanswered questions. In this review, we comment on the most recent developments in this field and identify current gaps in our knowledge.