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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jul 23, 1996; 93(15): 7737–7742.
PMCID: PMC38817

The miniaturized nuclear genome of eukaryotic endosymbiont contains genes that overlap, genes that are cotranscribed, and the smallest known spliceosomal introns.

Abstract

Chlorarachniophyte algae contain a complex, multi-membraned chloroplast derived from the endosymbiosis of a eukaryotic alga. The vestigial nucleus of the endosymbiont, called the nucleomorph, contains only three small linear chromosomes with a haploid genome size of 380 kb and is the smallest known eukaryotic genome. Nucleotide sequence data from a subtelomeric fragment of chromosome III were analyzed as a preliminary investigation of the coding capacity of this vestigial genome. Several housekeeping genes including U6 small nuclear RNA (snRNA), ribosomal proteins S4 and S13, a core protein of the spliceosome [small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP) E], and a cip-like protease (clpP) were identified. Expression of these genes was confirmed by combinations of Northern blot analysis, in situ hybridization, immunocytochemistry, and cDNA analysis. The protein-encoding genes are typically eukaryotic in overall structure and their messenger RNAs are polyadenylylated. A novel feature is the abundance of 18-, 19-, or 20-nucleotide introns; the smallest spliceosomal introns known. Two of the genes, U6 and S13, overlap while another two genes, snRNP E and clpP, are cotranscribed in a single mRNA. The overall gene organization is extraordinarily compact, making the nucleomorph a unique model for eukaryotic genomics.

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