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Genetics. Aug 1998; 149(4): 2025–2037.
PMCID: PMC1460258

Complex structure of knob DNA on maize chromosome 9. Retrotransposon invasion into heterochromatin.


The recovery of maize (Zea mays L.) chromosome addition lines of oat (Avena sativa L.) from oat x maize crosses enables us to analyze the structure and composition of specific regions, such as knobs, of individual maize chromosomes. A DNA hybridization blot panel of eight individual maize chromosome addition lines revealed that 180-bp repeats found in knobs are present in each of these maize chromosomes, but the copy number varies from approximately 100 to 25, 000. Cosmid clones with knob DNA segments were isolated from a genomic library of an oat-maize chromosome 9 addition line with the help of the 180-bp knob-associated repeated DNA sequence used as a probe. Cloned knob DNA segments revealed a complex organization in which blocks of tandemly arranged 180-bp repeating units are interrupted by insertions of other repeated DNA sequences, mostly represented by individual full size copies of retrotransposable elements. There is an obvious preference for the integration of retrotransposable elements into certain sites (hot spots) of the 180-bp repeat. Sequence microheterogeneity including point mutations and duplications was found in copies of 180-bp repeats. The 180-bp repeats within an array all had the same polarity. Restriction maps constructed for 23 cloned knob DNA fragments revealed the positions of polymorphic sites and sites of integration of insertion elements. Discovery of the interspersion of retrotransposable elements among blocks of tandem repeats in maize and some other organisms suggests that this pattern may be basic to heterochromatin organization for eukaryotes.

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Selected References

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