In this week's Science, an international research team publishes a study examining recombination hotspots — areas of the genome with significantly higher rates of recombination — in birds. It is known that in mice and apes the DNA-binding protein PRDM9 is critical to initiating the double-strand breaks in DNA that result in recombination, but less is known about the process in other organisms. The researchers focused on two species of finches known to lack the PRDM9 protein, and mapped and compared their genomes. They found that the two shares more than 70 percent of the same hotspots despite diverging millions of years ago. In contrast, humans and chimps, which diverged along a similar timeline, share only about 10 percent of the same hotspots. The finding suggests that in the absence of PRDM9, recombination targets functional features that enable access to the genome, while also constraining its evolution.
In a related study, investigators from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center analyzed hotspot overlap in different species of yeast, finding that two species in particular share 80 percent of the same hotspots. This suggests that hotspot patterns in yeast, much like birds, have a high degree of consistency, and that the disparate hotspot patterns observed in mammals may be the exception and not the rule, or that the mechanisms governing hotspots in mammals evolved later.
Finally in Science, John Bohannon, a contributing correspondent for the journal, has an investigative report examining a form of journal hijacking wherein individuals assume a legitimate publication's online domain name once it expires. They then dupe scientists into transferring money in order to have their research published in what they believe to be a legitimate journal. The piece demonstrates the ease with which this scam can be done and identifies more than 20 journals whose domains have been misappropriated by hijackers.