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J Exp Bot. 2005 Jan;56(409):1-14. Epub 2004 Nov 22.

The repair of double-strand breaks in plants: mechanisms and consequences for genome evolution.

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Botany II, University of Karlsruhe, D-76128 Karlsruhe, Germany.


The efficient repair of double-strand breaks (DSBs) in genomic DNA is important for the survival of all organisms. In recent years, basic mechanisms of DSB repair in somatic plant cells have been elucidated. DSBs are mainly repaired by non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ). The repair can be associated with deletions, but also insertions due to copying genomic sequences from elsewhere into the break. Species-specific differences of NHEJ have been reported and an inverse correlation of deletion size to genome size has been postulated, indicating that NHEJ might contribute significantly to evolution of genome size. DSB repair by homologous recombination (HR) might also influence genome organization. Whereas homology present in an allelic or an ectopic position is hardly used for repair, the use of homologous sequences in close proximity to the break is frequent. A 'single-strand annealing' mechanism that leads to sequence deletions between direct repeats is particularly efficient. This might explain the accumulation of single long terminal repeats of retroelements in cereal genomes. The conservative 'synthesis-dependent strand annealing' mechanism, resulting in conversions without crossovers is also prominent and seems to be significant for the evolution of tandemly arranged gene families such as resistance genes. Induction of DSBs could be used as a means for the controlled manipulation of plant genomes in an analogous way for the use of marker gene excision and site-specific integration.

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