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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Mar 28;97(7):3298-303.

Evolution and assembly of an extremely scrambled gene.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.


The process of gene unscrambling in hypotrichous ciliates represents one of nature's ingenious solutions to the problem of gene assembly. With some essential genes scrambled in as many as 51 pieces, these ciliates rely on sequence and structural cues to rebuild their fragmented genes and genomes. Here we report the complex pattern of scrambling in the DNA polymerase alpha gene of Stylonychia lemnae. The germline (micronuclear) copy of this gene is broken into 48 pieces with 47 dispersed over two loci, with no asymmetry in the placement of coding segments on either strand. Direct repeats present at the boundaries between coding and noncoding sequences provide pointers to help guide assembly of the functional (macronuclear) gene. We investigate the evolution of this complex gene in three hypotrichous species.

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