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J Mol Biol. 1996 Aug 23;261(3):334-40.

Evidence for selection in evolution of alpha satellite DNA: the central role of CENP-B/pJ alpha binding region.

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National Research Center of Mental Health, Moscow, Russia.


Conservation of DNA segments performing sequence-related functions is a landmark of selection and functional significance. Phylogenetic variability of alpha satellite and apparent absence of conserved regions calls its functional significance into question, even though sequence-specific alpha satellite-binding proteins pJ alpha and CENP-B have been discovered. Moreover, the function of pJ alpha is obscure and CENP-B binding satellite DNA, which is thought to participate in centromere formation, is found only in few species and not necessarily in all chromosomes. Analysis of alpha satellite evolution allows us to recognize the order in this variability. Here we report a new alpha satellite suprachromosomal family, which together with the four defined earlier, covers all known alpha satellite sequences. Although each family has its characteristic types of monomers, they all descend from two prototypes, A and B. We show that most differences between prototypes are concentrated in a short region (positions 35 to 51), which exists in two alternative states: it matches a binding site for pJ alpha in type A and the one for CENP-B in type B. Lower primates have only type A monomers whereas great apes have both A and B. The new family is formed by monomeric types almost identical to A and B prototypes, thus representing a living relic of alpha satellite. Analysis of these data shows that selection-driven evolution, rather than random fixation of mutations, formed the distinction between A and B types. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence for selection in any of the known satellite DNAs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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