Amongst 15 bird species, representative of 7 orders, recurrent breakages evocating the presence of fragile sites were detected in the chromosomes of the 5 species belonging to Passeriformes. These breaks appeared when 5-bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) was added to the cell culture medium at a dose inefficient for inducing chromosome structure alterations in other birds and mammals. They involved, similarly in male and female, 3 loci on the Z chromosome of 3 Turdus species (Turdidae). Labeling by BrdU antibody confirmed the correlation between BrdU incorporation into DNA and breakage, especially around and in the sites of breakage. Thus, 3 BrdU-sensitive fragile sites were present in the Z chromosomes of these birds. Three fragile sites were also detected at different locations in the Z chromosomes of the European robin (Erithacus rubecula, Muscicapidae), suggesting that a structural rearrangement occurred during the evolution of Turdidae and Muscicapidae. Chromosome banding confirmed this interpretation. Finally, in the more distantly related species Parus major (Paridae), the almost acrocentric Z chromosome displayed a single BrdU-sensitive fragile site in its short arm, and the W appeared to be pulverized by BrdU incorporation. Although it cannot be excluded that the BrdU-sensitive fragile sites may be involved in rearrangements, their conservation in many species, and possibly all Passeriformes, provides evidence that they do not constitute a pejorative character during evolution.

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