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Mol Biol Evol. 2000 Jan;17(1):44-59.

A diverse population of introns in the nuclear ribosomal genes of ericoid mycorrhizal fungi includes elements with sequence similarity to endonuclease-coding genes.

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  • 1Centro Studio Micologia del Terreno-CNR, Torino, Italy.


Ericoid mycorrhizal fungi form symbioses with the roots of members of the Ericales. Although only two genera have been identified in culture, the taxonomic diversity of ericoid symbionts is certainly wider. Genetic variation among 40 ericoid fungal isolates was investigated in this study. PCR amplification of the nuclear small-subunit ribosomal DNA (SSU rDNA) and of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS), followed by sequencing, led to the discovery of DNA insertions of various sizes in the SSU rDNA of most isolates. They reached sizes of almost 1,800 bp and occurred in up to five different insertion sites. Their positions and sizes were generally correlated with morphological and ITS-RFLP grouping of the isolates, although some insertions were found to be optional among isolates of the same species, and insertions were not always present in all SSU rDNA repeats within an isolate. Most insertions were identified as typical group I introns, possessing the conserved motifs characteristic of this group. However, other insertions lack these motifs and form a distinct group that includes other fungal ribosomal introns. Alignments with almost 70 additional sequences from fungal nuclear SSU rDNA introns indicate that introns inserted at the same site along the rDNA gene are generally homologous, but they also suggest the possibility of some horizontal transfers. Two of the ericoid fungal introns showed strong homology with a conserved motif found in endonuclease genes from nuclear rDNA introns.

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