Microsatellite spreading in the human genome: Evolutionary mechanisms and structural implications

Eyal Nadir, Hanah Margalit*, Tamar Gallily, Shmuel A. Ben-Sasson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Microsatellites are tandem repeat sequences abundant in the genomes of higher eukaryotes and hitherto considered as 'junk DNA.' Analysis of a human genome representative data base (2.84 Mb) reveals a distinct juxtaposition of A-rich microsatellites and retroposons and suggests their coevolution. The analysis implies that most microsatellites were generated by a 3'-extension of retrotranscripts, similar to mRNA polyadenylylation, and that they serve in turn as 'retroposition navigators,' directing the retroposons via homology-driven integration into defined sites. Thus, they became instrumental in the preservation and extension of primordial genomic patterns. A role is assigned to these reiterating A-rich loci in the higher- order organization of the chromatin. The disease-associated triplet repeats are mostly found in coding regions and do not show an association with retroposons, constituting a unique set within the family of microsatellite sequences.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)6470-6475
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
StatePublished - 25 Jun 1996


  • 3'-extension
  • chromatin organization
  • homology-driven integration
  • matrix associated regions
  • retroposition
  • scaffold


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