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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Dec 21;107(51):22134-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1009284107. Epub 2010 Oct 25.

RNA-dependent control of gene amplification.

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  • 1Center for Biomedical Education and Research, Institute of Cell Biology, University of Witten/Herdecke, 58453 Witten, Germany.

Abstract

We exploit the unusual genome organization of the ciliate cell to analyze the control of specific gene amplification during a nuclear differentiation process. Ciliates contain two types of nuclei within one cell, the macronucleus and the micronucleus; and after sexual reproduction a new macronucleus is formed from a micronuclear derivative. During macronuclear differentiation, most extensive DNA reorganization, elimination, and fragmentation processes occur, resulting in a macronucleus containing short DNA molecules (nanochromosomes) representing individual genetic units and each being present in high copy number. It is believed that these processes are controlled by small nuclear RNAs but also by a template derived from the old macronucleus. We first describe the exact copy numbers of selected nanochromosomes in the macronucleus, and define the timing during nuclear differentiation at which copy number is determined. This led to the suggestion that DNA processing and copy number control may be closely related mechanisms. Degradation of an RNA template derived from the macronucleus leads to significant decrease in copy number, whereas injection of additional template molecules results in an increase in copy number and enhanced expression of the corresponding gene. These observations can be incorporated into a mechanistic model about an RNA-dependent epigenetic regulation of gene copy number during nuclear differentiation. This highlights that RNA, in addition to its well-known biological functions, can also be involved in the control of gene amplification.

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