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Complex structure of knobs and centromeric regions in maize chromosomes

Ananiev E.V., Phillips R.L., Rines H.W.


The recovery of maize (Zea mays L.) chromosome addition lines of oat (Avena sativa L.) from oat x maize crosses enables us to analyze the structure and composition of individual maize chromosomes via the isolation and characterization of chromosome-specific cosmid clones. Restriction fragment fingerprinting, sequencing, and in situ hybridization were applied to discover a new family of knob associated tandem repeats, the TR1, which are capable of forming fold-back DNA segments, as well as a new family of centromeric tandem repeats, CentC. Analysis of knob and centromeric DNA segments revealed a complex organization in which blocks of tandemly arranged repeating units are interrupted by insertions of other repeated DNA sequences, mostly represented by individual full size copies of retrotransposable elements. There is an obvious preference for the integration/association of certain retrotransposable elements into knobs or centromere regions as well as for integration of retrotransposable elements into certain sites (hot spots) of the 180-bp repeat. DNA hybridization to a blot panel of eight individual maize chromosome addition lines revealed that CentC, TR1, and 180-bp tandem repeats are found in each of these maize chromosomes, but the copy number of each can vary significantly from about 100 to 25,000. In situ hybridization revealed variation among the maize chromosomes in the size of centromeric tandem repeats as well as in the size and composition of knob regions. It was found that knobs may be composed of either 180-bp or TR1, or both repeats, and in addition to large knobs these repeated elements may form micro clusters which are detectable only with the help of in situ hybridization. The association of the fold-back elements with knobs, knob polymorphism and complex structure suggest that maize knob may be consider as megatransposable elements. The discovery of the interspersion of retrotransposable elements among blocks of tandem repeats in maize and some other organisms suggests that this pattern may be basic to heterochromatin organization for eukaryotes.

Tsitologiya i Genetika 2000, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 11-15

Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics and Plant Molecular Genetics Institute, University of Minnesota, St. Paul 55108-6026, USA.

Ananiev E.V., Phillips R.L., Rines H.W. Complex structure of knobs and centromeric regions in maize chromosomes, Tsitol Genet., 2000, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 11-15.

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