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Nucleic Acids Res. 2000 Feb 15;28(4):895-900.

A long stringent sequence signal for programmed chromosome breakage in Tetrahymena thermophila.

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Division of Basic Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.


Programmed chromosome breakage occurs at 50-200 specific sites in the genome of Tetrahymena thermo-phila during somatic nuclear (macronuclear) differentiation. Previous studies have identified a 15 bp sequence, the Cbs (for chromosome breakage sequence), that is necessary and sufficient to specify these sites. In this study we determined the effects of mutations in the Cbs on its ability to specify the chromosome breakage site and promote new telomere formation in conjugating cells. Twenty-one constructs with single nucleotide substitutions covering all 15 positions of the Cbs were made and tested. Fourteen of them (covering 11 positions) abolished breakage entirely, six (covering six positions, including the remaining four) caused partial loss of breakage function and one showed no detectable effect. This result indicates that the Cbs has an exceptionally long and stringent sequence requirement. It offers no evidence that the Cbs contains a separate domain for promoting new telomere formation. In addition, we found that a partially functional Cbs retained in the macronucleus does not induce chromosome breakage during vegetative growth and that excess copies of this germline-specific sequence in the somatic nucleus have little deleterious effect on cell growth.

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