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Genetics. 1991 Sep;129(1):271-83.

Meiotic instability of the R-r complex arising from displaced intragenic exchange and intrachromosomal rearrangement.

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Department of Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06511.


The R complex of Zea mays encodes a tissue-specific transcriptional activator of the anthocyanin pigment biosynthetic pathway. Certain R alleles comprise two genetically distinct components that confer the plant (P) and seed (S) aspects of the pigmentation pattern. These alleles are meiotically unstable, losing (P) or (S) function, often accompanied by exchange of flanking markers. We show that the (P) component consists of a single gene within the R-r complex, whereas the (S) component is part of a more complex arrangement of multiple R genes or gene subfragments. A third, cryptic region of the complex, termed (Q), consists of a truncated R sequence. The analysis of R-r crossover derivative alleles shows they arise from unequal exchange between the (P) gene and one of several distinct regions of the R-r complex. Restriction site polymorphisms were used to show that most of these unequal exchanges are intragenic. The frequency of displaced intragenic recombination is comparable to previous estimates for intragenic recombination in maize involving genes that are not duplicated. These exchange events have been used to determine the arrangement of components within the complex and their orientation in the chromosome. We also show that localized rearrangements in the (P) or (S) components are responsible for noncrossover derivative alleles. The organization of R-r has implications for these noncrossover derivatives and models for their origin are discussed.

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