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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2010 Jan;34(1):59-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2009.00196.x.

Ribosomal RNA genes in eukaryotic microorganisms: witnesses of phylogeny?

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  • 1Departamento de Biología Molecular y Biotecnología, Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México D.F., Mexico.


The study of genomic organization and regulatory elements of rRNA genes in metazoan paradigmatic organisms has led to the most accepted model of rRNA gene organization in eukaryotes. Nevertheless, the rRNA genes of microbial eukaryotes have also been studied in considerable detail and their atypical structures have been considered as exceptions. However, it is likely that these organisms have preserved variations in the organization of a versatile gene that may be seen as living records of evolution. Here, we review the organization of the main rRNA transcription unit (rDNA) and the 5S rRNA genes (5S rDNA). These genes are reiterated in the genome of microbial eukaryotes and may be coded alone, in tandem repeats, linked to each other or linked to other genes. They may be found in the chromosome or extrachromosomally in linear or circular units. rDNA coding regions may contain introns, sequence insertions, protein-coding genes or additional spacers. The 5S rDNA can be found in tandem repeats or genetically linked to genes transcribed by RNA polymerases I, II or III. Available information from about a hundred microbial eukaryotes was used to review the unexpected diversity in the genomic organization of rRNA genes.

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