In a multicellular organism, the genomes of all cells are in general the same. Programmed DNA elimination is a notable exception to this genome constancy rule. DNA elimination removes genes and repetitive elements in the germline genome to form a reduced somatic genome in various organisms. The process of DNA elimination within an organism is highly accurate and reproducible; it typically occurs during early embryogenesis, coincident with germline-soma differentiation. DNA elimination provides a mechanism to silence selected genes and repeats in somatic cells. Recent studies in nematodes suggest that DNA elimination removes all chromosome ends, resolves sex chromosome fusions, and may also promote the birth of novel genes. Programmed DNA elimination processes are diverse among species, suggesting DNA elimination likely has evolved multiple times in different taxa. The growing list of organisms that undergo DNA elimination indicates that DNA elimination may be more widespread than previously appreciated. These various organisms will serve as complementary and comparative models to study the function, mechanism, and evolution of programmed DNA elimination in metazoans.

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