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Mol Biol Evol. 2012 Jul;29(7):1875-89. doi: 10.1093/molbev/mss067. Epub 2012 Feb 10.

Segmental duplication, microinversion, and gene loss associated with a complex inversion breakpoint region in Drosophila.

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Departament de Genètica i de Microbiologia, Facultat de Biociències, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain.


Chromosomal inversions are usually portrayed as simple two-breakpoint rearrangements changing gene order but not gene number or structure. However, increasing evidence suggests that inversion breakpoints may often have a complex structure and entail gene duplications with potential functional consequences. Here, we used a combination of different techniques to investigate the breakpoint structure and the functional consequences of a complex rearrangement fixed in Drosophila buzzatii and comprising two tandemly arranged inversions sharing the middle breakpoint: 2m and 2n. By comparing the sequence in the breakpoint regions between D. buzzatii (inverted chromosome) and D. mojavensis (noninverted chromosome), we corroborate the breakpoint reuse at the molecular level and infer that inversion 2m was associated with a duplication of a ~13 kb segment and likely generated by staggered breaks plus repair by nonhomologous end joining. The duplicated segment contained the gene CG4673, involved in nuclear transport, and its two nested genes CG5071 and CG5079. Interestingly, we found that other than the inversion and the associated duplication, both breakpoints suffered additional rearrangements, that is, the proximal breakpoint experienced a microinversion event associated at both ends with a 121-bp long duplication that contains a promoter. As a consequence of all these different rearrangements, CG5079 has been lost from the genome, CG5071 is now a single copy nonnested gene, and CG4673 has a transcript ~9 kb shorter and seems to have acquired a more complex gene regulation. Our results illustrate the complex effects of chromosomal rearrangements and highlight the need of complementing genomic approaches with detailed sequence-level and functional analyses of breakpoint regions if we are to fully understand genome structure, function, and evolutionary dynamics.

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