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Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2000 Jul;109(2):133-45.

Tandemly repeated DNA is a target for the partial replacement of thymine by beta-D-glucosyl-hydroxymethyluracil in Trypanosoma brucei.

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  • 1Division of Molecular Biology and Centre of Biomedical Genetics, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


In the DNA of African trypanosomes a small fraction of thymine is replaced by the modified base beta-D-glucosyl-hydroxymethyluracil (J). The function of this large base is unknown. The presence of J in the silent variant surface glycoprotein gene expression sites and the lack of J in the transcribed expression site indicates that DNA modification might play a role in control of gene repression. However, the abundance of J in the long telomeric repeat tracts and in subtelomeric arrays of simple repeats suggests that J may also have specific functions in repetitive DNA. We have now analyzed chromosome-internal repetitive sequences in the genome of Trypanosoma brucei and found J in the minichromosomal 177-bp repeats, in the long arrays of 5S RNA gene repeats, and in the spliced-leader RNA gene repeats. No J was found in the rDNA locus or in dispersed repetitive transposon-like elements. Remarkably, the rDNA of T. brucei is not organized in long arrays of tandem repeats, as in many other eukaryotes. T. brucei contains only approximately 15-20 rDNA repeat units that are divided over six to seven chromosomes. Our results show that J is present in many tandemly repeated sequences, either at a telomere or chromosome internal. The presence of J might help to stabilize the long arrays of repeats in the genome.

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