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Plant Physiol. 2010 Jul;153(3):1413-24. doi: 10.1104/pp.110.157420. Epub 2010 May 20.

Bs1, a new chimeric gene formed by retrotransposon-mediated exon shuffling in maize.

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Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Transposons are major components of all eukaryotic genomes. Although traditionally regarded as causes of detrimental mutations, recent evidence suggests that transposons may play a role in host gene diversification and evolution. For example, host gene transduction by retroelements has been suggested to be both common and to have the potential to create new chimeric genes by the shuffling of existing sequences. We have previously shown that the maize (Zea mays subsp. mays) retrotransposon Bs1 has transduced sequences from three different host genes. Here, we provide evidence that these transduction events led to the generation of a chimeric new gene that is both transcribed and translated. Expression of Bs1 is tightly controlled and occurs during a narrow developmental window in early ear development. Although all Bs1-associated transduction events took place before Zea speciation, a full uninterrupted open reading frame encoding the BS1 protein may have arisen in domesticated maize or in the diverse populations of its progenitor Z. mays subsp. parviglumis. We discuss potential functions based on domain conservation and evidence for functional constraints between the transduced sequences and their host gene counterparts.

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