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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Feb 20, 1996; 93(4): 1449–1452.

Heat shock induces a loss of rRNA-encoding DNA repeats in Brassica nigra.


Stress-induced mutations may play an important role in the evolution of plants. Plants do not sequester a germ line, and thus any stress-induced mutations could be passed on to future generations. We report a study of the effects of heat shock on genomic components of Brassica nigra Brassicaceae. Plants were submitted to heat stress, and the copy number of two nuclear-encoded single-copy genes, rRNA-encoding DNA (rDNA) and a chloroplast DNA gene, was determined and compared to a nonstressed control group. We determined whether genomic changes were inherited by examining copy number in the selfed progeny of control and heat-treated individuals. No effects of heat shock on copy number of the single-copy nuclear genes or on chloroplast DNA are found. However, heat shock did cause a statistically significant reduction in rDNA copies inherited by the F1 generation. In addition, we propose a DNA damage-reppair hypothesis to explain the reduction in rDNA caused by heat shock.

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