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Letters to Nature
Nature 380, 707 - 708 (25 April 1996); doi:10.1038/380707a0

High levels of genetic change in rodents of Chernobyl

Robert J. Barker*, Ronald A. Van Den Bussche*, Amanda J. Wright*, Lara E. Wiggins*, Meredith J. Hamilton*, Erin P. Reat*, Micheal H. Smith, Micheal D. Lomakin & Ronald K. Chesser

*Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock,Texas 79409, USA
Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Aiken, South Carolina, 29802, USA
International Research and Development Agency, 252001, Kiev-1,Ukraine

BASE-PAIR substitution rates for the mitochondria! cytochrome b gene of free-living, native populations of voles collected next to reactor 4 at Chernobyl, Ukraine, were estimated by two indepen-dent methods to be in excess of 10 −4 nucleotides per site per generation. These estimates are hundreds of times greater than those typically found in mitochondria of vertebrates, suggesting that the environment resulting from this nuclear power plant disaster is having a measurable genetic impact on the organisms of that region. Despite these DNA changes, vole populations thrive and reproduce in the radioactive regions around the Chernobyl reactor.

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