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Genetics. 1998 Mar;148(3):1109-15.

High frequency intragenic recombination during macronuclear development in Tetrahymena thermophila restores the wild-type SerH1 gene.

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Department of Biology, Cleveland State University, Ohio 44115, USA.


Macronuclear development in ciliates is characterized by extensive rearrangement of genetic material, including sequence elimination, chromosome fragmentation and telomere addition. Intragenic recombination is a relatively rare, but evolutionarily important phenomenon occurring in mitosis and meiosis in a wide variety of organisms. Here, we show that high frequency intragenic recombination, on the order of 30%, occurs in the developing amitotic macronucleus of the ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila. Such recombination, occurring between two nonsense transition mutations separated by 726 nucleotides, reproducibly restores wild-type expression of the SerH1 surface protein gene, thus mimicking complementation in trans heterozygotes. Recombination must be considered a potentially important aspect of macronuclear development, producing gene combinations not present in the germinal micronucleus.

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