Background: Duplications of large genomic segments provide genetic diversity in genome evolution. Despite their importance, how these duplications are generated remains uncertain, particularly for distant duplicated genomic segments.
Results: Here we provide evidence of the participation of circular DNA intermediates in the single generation of some large human segmental duplications. A specific reversion of sequence order from A-B / C-D to B-A / D-C between duplicated segments and the presence of only microhomologies and short indels at the evolutionary breakpoints suggest a circularization of the donor ancestral locus and an accidental replicative interaction with the acceptor locus.
Conclusions: This novel mechanism of random genomic mutation could explain several distant genomic duplications including some of the ones that took place during recent human evolution.