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Genetics. 1993 Feb;133(2):203-11.

Frequent changes in the number of reiterated ribosomal RNA genes throughout the life cycle of the basidiomycete Coprinus cinereus.

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Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 27599-3280.


We have examined the stability of the tandemly repeated genes that encode the ribosomal RNA in Coprinus cinereus. These genes are contained within two linked HindIII fragments in a 3.0-Mb chromosome. We monitored the size of these fragments in both mitotic and meiotic segregants using the contour-clamped homogeneous electric field (CHEF) method. No length changes were observed in the smaller HindIII fragment (100 kb; 10 repeats) among the DNAs prepared from 46 asexual spore derivatives (oidia) or 128 meiotic segregants (basidiospores from 32 tetrads). However, the larger HindIII fragment (1100 kb; 120 repeats) did exhibit variability. Substantial changes, involving up to 40% of the larger HindIII fragment were recorded in 7 of 46 oidial isolates (including 4 of 22 transformed derivatives). To learn if the changes were confined to the vegetative portion of the life cycle, we examined transmission of HindIII variants through three crosses. In the first two crosses (16 tetrads total), no changes were observed in the large HindIII fragment. However, in the third cross (16 tetrads), each tetrad showed at least one alteration. In half of the tetrads from the third cross, the altered patterns segregated 2:2, suggesting that the changes occurred after mating but prior to premeiotic DNA replication. We conclude that breakage and rejoining reactions within the rDNA are frequent and are not confined to any particular stage of the life cycle. It also appears that certain repeats are sheltered from these events. Finally, marked differences in rDNA stability were observed in the cross analyzed.

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