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Mol Cell Biol. Dec 1995; 15(12): 7117–7126.
PMCID: PMC230967

An intramolecular recombination mechanism for the formation of the rRNA gene palindrome of Tetrahymena thermophila.


Large palindromic DNAs are found in a wide variety of eukaryotic cells. In Tetrahymena thermophila, a large palindrome is formed from a single rRNA gene (rDNA) during nuclear differentiation. We present evidence that a key step in the formation of the rDNA palindrome of T. thermophila involves homologous intramolecular recombination. Heteroduplex micronuclear rDNA molecules were constructed in vitro and microinjected into developing macronuclei, where they formed palindromes. Analysis of the resulting palindromes indicated that both strands of the microinjected rDNA are used to form the same palindrome. This study, together with a previous study (L. F. Yasuda and M.-C. Yao, Cell 67:505-516, 1991), is the first to define a molecular pathway of palindrome formation. The process is initiated by chromosome breakage at sites flanking the micronuclear rDNA. An intramolecular recombination reaction, guided by a pair of short inverted repeats located at the 5' end of the excised rDNA, covalently joins the two strands of micronuclear rDNA in a giant hairpin molecule. Bidirectional DNA replication converts the giant hairpin molecule to a palindrome. We suggest that the general features of this pathway are applicable to palindrome formation in other cell types.

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Selected References

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