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Genetics. Mar 1998; 148(3): 1109–1115.
PMCID: PMC1460036

High frequency intragenic recombination during macronuclear development in Tetrahymena thermophila restores the wild-type SerH1 gene.


Macronuclear development in ciliates is characterized by extensive rearrangement of genetic material, including sequence elimination, chromosome fragmentation and telomere addition. Intragenic recombination is a relatively rare, but evolutionarily important phenomenon occurring in mitosis and meiosis in a wide variety of organisms. Here, we show that high frequency intragenic recombination, on the order of 30%, occurs in the developing amitotic macronucleus of the ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila. Such recombination, occurring between two nonsense transition mutations separated by 726 nucleotides, reproducibly restores wild-type expression of the SerH1 surface protein gene, thus mimicking complementation in trans heterozygotes. Recombination must be considered a potentially important aspect of macronuclear development, producing gene combinations not present in the germinal micronucleus.

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Selected References

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