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Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Sep 22;270(1527):1893-904.

Telomere variability in the monocotyledonous plant order Asparagales.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London E1 4NS, UK.


A group of monocotyledonous plants within the order Asparagales, forming a distinct clade in phylogenetic analyses, was reported previously to lack the 'typical' Arabidopsis-type telomere (TTTAGGG)(n). This stimulated us to determine what has replaced these sequences. Using slot-blot and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) to species within this clade, our results indicate the following. 1. The typical Arabidopsis-type telomeric sequence has been partly or fully replaced by the human-type telomeric sequence (TTAGGG)(n). Species in Allium lack the human-type variant. 2. In most cases the human variant occurs along with a lower abundance of two or more variants of the minisatellite sequences (of seven types evaluated), usually these being the consensus telomeric sequence of Arabidopsis, Bombyx (TTAGG)(n) and Tetrahymena (TTGGGG)(n). FISH shows that the variants can occur mixed together at the telomere. 3. Telomerases generate products with a 6 base pair periodicity and when sequenced they reveal predominantly a reiterated human-type motif. These motifs probably form the 'true telomere' but the error rate of motif synthesis is higher compared with 'typical' plant telomerases. The data indicate that the Asparagales clade is unified by a mutation resulting in a switch from synthesis of Arabidopsis-like telomeres to a low-fidelity synthesis of human-like telomeres.

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