Home and away- the evolutionary dynamics of homing endonucleases

Adi Barzel*, Uri Obolski, Johann Gogarten, Martin Kupiec, Lilach Hadany

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Homing endonucleases (HEases) are a large and diverse group of site-specific DNAases. They reside within self-splicing introns and inteins, and promote their horizontal dissemination. In recent years, HEases have been the focus of extensive research due to their promising potential use in gene targeting procedures for the treatment of genetic diseases and for the genetic engineering of crop, animal models and cell lines. Results: Using mathematical analysis and computational modeling, we present here a novel account for the evolution and population dynamics of HEase genes (HEGs). We describe HEGs as paradoxical selfish elements whose long-term persistence in a single population relies on low transmission rates and a positive correlation between transmission efficiency and toxicity. Conclusion: Plausible conditions allow HEGs to sustain at high frequency through long evolutionary periods, with the endonuclease frequency being either at equilibrium or periodically oscillating. The predictions of our model may prove important not only for evolutionary theory but also for gene therapy and bio-engineering applications of HEases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number324
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011


FundersFunder number
National Science Foundation0830024, DEB 0830024, 224866
Marie Curie2007-224866
Israel Science Foundation840/ 08
Ministry of Science and Technology, Israel


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