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Plant J. 1996 Feb;9(2):273-82.

Two-dimensional RFLP analyses reveal megabase-sized clusters of rRNA gene variants in Arabidopsis thaliana, suggesting local spreading of variants as the mode for gene homogenization during concerted evolution.

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Biology Department, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA.


Eukaryotic genes encoding the precursor of 18S, 5.8S and 25S ribosomal RNA (rRNA genes or rDNA) are virtually identical within a species, yet they evolve rapidly between species, a phenomenon known as concerted evolution. The mechanisms by which sequence homogenization and fixation of new rRNA gene variants occurs within a genome are not clear. In diploid Arabidopsis thaliana, approximately 1500 rRNA genes are tandemly arrayed at two nucleolus organizer regions, one on chromosome 2 (NOR2), the other on chromosome 4 (NOR4). This paper shows that NOR2 and NOR4 are similar in size, each spanning approximately 3.5-4.0 Mbp. Using two-dimensional mapping techniques involving a combination of pulsed-field and conventional gel electrophoresis, the distributions of four distinct rRNA gene variants at NOR2 and NOR4 have been determined. rRNA genes at NOR4 are homogeneous with respect to a HindIII site occurring once per gene. In contrast, fewer than 10% of the rRNA genes at NOR2 are HindIII-bearing variants. A single intergenic spacer length is found among rRNA genes at NOR2 but three classes of spacer length variants are present at NOR4. The NOR4 variants are not intermingled with one another; instead, they are highly clustered over distances as large as 1.5 Mbp. These data suggest that in the concerted evolution of rRNA genes, homogenization is a consequence of local spreading of new rRNA gene variants.

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