Molecular evolutionary genetics of isozymes: pattern, theory, and application.

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Isozyme studies at the population genetics-ecology interface conducted at the Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa, during 15 years, 1974-1989, are reviewed in terms of the evidence, theoretical, and practical implications. These studies involve numerous individuals, populations, species, and higher taxa in nature of plants, animals, and humans tested for variation at 15 to 50 primary isozyme loci. The isozyme studies have been conducted mainly in individuals sampled in natural populations at the local, regional, and global levels. Two of the species studied were wild cereals, the progenitors of wheat and barley in the Near East Fertile Crescent. These studies have been complemented by laboratory controlled a priori experimentation of inorganic and organic pollution biology. The human genetics laboratory compared isozyme structure of Jewish and non-Jewish populations. Our results indicate that: (i) isozyme diversity in nature in abundant, at least partly adaptive, and is oriented and maintained primarily by ecological factors. (ii) Natural selection in action is highlighted by stresses involving among others thermal, chemical, and climatic factors. (iii) Speciation can occur with little change in isozyme diversity. (iv) Jews from diverse countries, and in spite of 2,000 years of Diaspora, retain in the frequencies of some isozymes their Near Eastern origins. (v) Wild cereals harbor rich genetic resources exploitable in breeding either directly as adaptive structures, or indirectly as genetic markers for genotypic production of elite agronomic traits. (vi) Isozymes have been utilized as genetic monitors of marine pollution thereby contributing to environmental quality and conservation. (vii) Isozymes can substantially contribute to conservation biology. (viii) Isozymes have been successfully utilized in constructing molecular phylogenies and in revealing new sibling species. (ix) Future theoretical and practical directions of isozyme studies at the protein and DNA levels are outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)701-742
Number of pages42
JournalProgress in Clinical and Biological Research
StatePublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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