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Heredity (Edinb). 2009 May;102(5):453-64. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2009.9. Epub 2009 Mar 4.

Evolutionary dynamics and sites of illegitimate recombination revealed in the interspersion and sequence junctions of two nonhomologous satellite DNAs in cactophilic Drosophila species.

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Departamento de Genética e Evolução, Universidade Federal de São Carlos, São Carlos, São Paulo, Brazil.


Satellite DNA (satDNA) is a major component of genomes but relatively little is known about the fine-scale organization of unrelated satDNAs residing at the same chromosome location, and the sequence structure and dynamics of satDNA junctions. We studied the organization and sequence junctions of two nonhomologous satDNAs, pBuM and DBC-150, in three species from the neotropical Drosophila buzzatii cluster (repleta group). In situ hybridization to microchromosomes, interphase nuclei and extended DNA fibers showed frequent interspersion of the two satellites in D. gouveai, D. antonietae and, to a lesser extent, D. seriema. We isolated by PCR six pBuM x DBC-150 junctions: four are exclusive to D. gouveai and two are exclusive to D. antonietae. The six junction breakpoints occur at different positions within monomers, suggesting independent origin. Four junctions showed abrupt transitions between the two satellites, whereas two junctions showed a distinct 10 bp tandem duplication before the junction. Unlike pBuM, DBC-150 junction repeats are more variable than randomly cloned monomers and showed diagnostic features in common to a 3-monomer higher-order repeat seen in the sister species D. serido. The high levels of interspersion between pBuM and DBC-150 repeats suggest extensive rearrangements between the two satellites, maybe favored by specific features of the microchromosomes. Our interpretation is that the junctions evolved by multiples events of illegitimate recombination between nonhomologous satDNA repeats, with subsequent rounds of unequal crossing-over expanding the copy number of some of the junctions.

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