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EMBO J. 1999 Jul 1; 18(13): 3783–3792.
PMCID: PMC1171455

Concerted evolution of the tandem array encoding primate U2 snRNA (the RNU2 locus) is accompanied by dramatic remodeling of the junctions with flanking chromosomal sequences.


The genes encoding primate U2 snRNA are organized as a nearly perfect tandem array (the RNU2 locus) that has been evolving concertedly for >35 Myr since the divergence of baboons and humans. Thus the repeat units of the tandem array are essentially identical within each species, but differ between species. Homogeneity is maintained because any change in one repeat unit is purged from the array or fixed in all other repeats. Intriguingly, the cytological location of RNU2 has remained unchanged despite concerted evolution of the tandem array. We had found previously that junction sequences between the U2 tandem array and flanking DNA were subject to remodeling over a region of 200-300 bp during the past 5 Myr in the hominid lineage. Here we show that the junctions between the U2 tandem array and flanking DNA have undergone dramatic rearrangements over a region of 1 to >10 kbp in the 35 Myr since divergence of the Old World Monkey and hominid lineages. We argue that these rearrangements reflect the high level of genetic activity required to sustain concerted evolution, and propose a model to explain why maintenance of homogeneity within a tandemly repeated multigene family would lead to junctional diversity.

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