The evolutionary origin of human subtelomeric homologies--or where the ends begin.
The subtelomeric regions of human chromosomes are comprised of sequence homologies shared between distinct subsets of chromosomes. In the course of developing a set of unique human telomere clones, we identified many clones containing such shared homologies, characterized by the presence of cross-hybridization signals on one or more telomeres in a fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) assay. We studied the evolutionary origin of seven subtelomeric clones by performing comparative FISH analysis on a primate panel that included great apes and Old World monkeys. All clones tested showed a single hybridization site in Old World monkeys that corresponded to one of the orthologous human sites, thus indicating the ancestral origin. The timing of the duplication events varied among the subtelomeric regions, from approximately 5 to approximately 25 million years ago. To examine the origin of and mechanism for one of these subtelomeric duplications, we compared the sequence derived from human 2q13--an ancestral fusion site of two great ape telomeric regions--with its paralogous subtelomeric sequences at 9p and 22q. These paralogous regions share large continuous homologies and contain three genes: RABL2B, forkhead box D4, and COBW-like. Our results provide further evidence for subtelomeric-mediated genomic duplication and demonstrate that these segmental duplications are most likely the result of ancestral unbalanced translocations that have been fixed in the genome during recent primate evolution.