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J Mol Biol. 1992 Jun 5;225(3):661-78.

A high degree of macronuclear chromosome polymorphism is generated by variable DNA rearrangements in Paramecium primaurelia during macronuclear differentiation.

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Laboratorie de Génétique Moléculaire, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France.


DNA rearrangements in Paramecium lead to the formation of macronuclear chromosomes, the sizes of which range from 50 and 800 kb (1 kb is 10(3) base-pairs). This process does not appear to be a simple size reduction of the micronuclear chromosomes by specific and reproducible DNA sequence elimination and chromosomal breakage followed by chromosomal amplification. On the contrary, this process generates a variety of different, but sequence-related, macronuclear chromosomes from a unique set of micronuclear chromosomes. This paper describes an attempt to understand the nature of the diversity of the macronuclear chromosomes and the mechanisms of their production. The structure of three macronuclear chromosomes, 480, 250 and 230 kb in size, have been determined utilizing chromosome-jumping and YAC-cloning techniques. The two smallest chromosomes correspond roughly to the two halves of the longest chromosome. The main contribution to the diversity arises from the chromosomal ends and is due to variable positions of the telomere addition sites and/or to variable rearrangements of DNA sequences. The 480 kb chromosome contains a region of variable length, which is likely to be due to a variable deletion, located at the position of telomerization seen in the two small chromosomes. A model of chromosomal breakage is proposed to rationalize this result where micronuclear DNA is first amplified, broken and degraded to various extent from the newly formed ends, which subsequently are either telomerized or religated. Potential implications of these processes for gene expression is discussed. Known phenotypes that have a macronuclear determinism could be explained by this type of process.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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