Twenty-seven human alphoid DNA probes have been hybridized in situ to metaphase spreads of the common chimpanzee (PTR), the pigmy chimpanzee (PPA), and the gorilla (GGO) to investigate the evolutionary relationship between the centromeric regions of the great ape chromosomes. The surprising results showed that the vast majority of the probes did not recognize their corresponding homologous chromosomes. Alphoid sequences belonging to the suprachromosomal family 1 (chromosomes 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 16, and 19) yielded very heterogeneous results: some probes gave intense signals, but always on nonhomologous chromosomes; others did not produce any hybridization signal. Almost all probes belonging to the suprachromosomal family 2 (chromosomes 2, 4, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 18, 20, 21, and 22) recognized a single chromosome: chromosome 11 (phylogenetic IX) in PTR and PPA and chromosome 19 (phylogenetic V) in GGO. Localization of probes of suprachromosomal family 3 (chromosomes 1, 11, 17, and X) was found to be substantially conserved in PTR and PPA, but not in GGO. Probe pDMX1, specific for the human X chromosome, was the only sequence detecting its corresponding chromosome in all three species. PPA chromosomes I, IIp, IIq, IV, V, VI, and XVIII were never labeled, even under low-stringency hybridization conditions, by the 27 alphoid probes used in this study. These results, with particular reference to differences found in the two related species PTR and PPA, suggest that alphoid centromeric sequences underwent a very rapid evolution.
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