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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The evolutionary scrambling and developmental unscrambling of germline genes in hypotrichous ciliates.

Genes in the germline (micronuclear) genome of hypotrichous ciliates are interrupted by multiple, short, non-coding, AT-rich sequences called internal eliminated segments, or IESs. During conversion of a micronucleus to a somatic nucleus (macronucleus) after cell mating, all IESs are excised from the germline genes and the gene segments, called macronuclear-destined segments, or MDSs, are spliced. Excision of the approximately 150 000 IESs from a haploid germline genome in Oxytricha nova requires approximately 150 000 recombinant events. In three of 10 genes the MDSs are scrambled. During macronuclear development the MDSs are unscrambled, possibly by folding of the DNA to allow MDSs to ligate in the correct order. The nine MDSs in the actin I gene of O.nova are scrambled in the random order, 3-4-6-5-7-9-2-1-8, and MDS 2 is inverted. The 14 MDSs in the alphaTP gene of O.nova and Stylonychia mytilus are scrambled in the non-random order, 1-3-5-7-9-11-2-4-6-8-10-12-13-14. The 45 MDSs in the DNA pol alpha gene are non-randomly scrambled into an odd/even series, with an inversion of one-third of the gene. Additional IESs have been inserted into these three genes during evolution of Oxytricha trifallax, slightly modifying scrambling patterns. The non-random scrambled patterns in the alphaTP and DNA pol alpha genes are explained by multiple, simultaneous IES insertions. The randomly scrambled pattern in the actin I gene may arise from an initially non-randomly scrambled pattern by recombination among multiple IESs. Alternatively, IESs inserted sporadically (individually) in a non-scrambled configuration might subsequently recombine, converting a non-scrambled gene into a randomly scrambled one. IESs shift along a DNA molecule, most likely as a result of mutations at MDS/IES junctions. Shifting of IESs has the effect of 'transferring' nucleotides from one MDS to another, but does not change the overall sequence of nucleotides in the combined MDSs. In addition to shifting in position, IESs accumulate mutations at a high rate and increase and decrease in length within a species and during speciation. The phenomena of IESs and of MDS scrambling represent remarkable flexibility of the hypotrich genome, possibly reflecting a process of MDS shuffling that facilitates the evolution of genes.[1]


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