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Genetics. 1999 Nov;153(3):1403-10.

Genome rearrangements by nonlinear transposons in maize.

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Department of Zoology and Genetics and Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011, USA.


Transposable elements have long been considered as potential agents of large-scale genome reorganization by virtue of their ability to induce chromosomal rearrangements such as deletions, duplications, inversions, and reciprocal translocations. Previous researchers have shown that particular configurations of transposon termini can induce chromosome rearrangements at high frequencies. Here, we have analyzed chromosomal rearrangements derived from an unstable allele of the maize P1 (pericarp color) gene. The progenitor allele contains both a full-length Ac (Activator) transposable element and an Ac terminal fragment termed fAc (fractured Ac) inserted in the second intron of the P1-rr gene. Two rearranged alleles were derived from a classical maize ear twinned sector and were found to contain a large inverted duplication and a corresponding deficiency. The sequences at the junctions of the rearrangement breakpoints indicate that the duplication and deletion structures were produced by a single transposition event involving Ac and fAc termini located on sister chromatids. Because the transposition process we describe involves transposon ends located on different DNA molecules, it is termed nonlinear transposition (NLT). NLT can rapidly break and rejoin chromosomes and thus could have played an important role in generating structural heterogeneity during genome evolution.

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