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    The ribosomal DNA (rDNA) of eukaryotes is organized as large tandem arrays. Here, we compare the genomic locations of rDNA among yeast species and show that, despite its huge size (>1 Mb), the rDNA array has moved around the genome several times within the family Saccharomycetaceae. We identify an ancestral, nontelomeric, rDNA site that is conserved across many species including Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Within the genus Lachancea, however, the rDNA apparently transposed from the ancestral site to a new site internal to a different chromosome, becoming inserted into a short intergenic region beside a tRNA gene. In at least four other yeast lineages, the rDNA moved from the ancestral site to telomeric locations. Remarkably, both the ancestral rDNA site and the new site in Lachancea are adjacent to protein-coding genes whose products maintain the specialized chromatin structure of rDNA (HMO1 and CDC14, respectively). In almost every case where the rDNA was lost from the ancestral site, the entire array disappeared without any other rearrangements in the region, leaving just an intergenic spacer of less than 2 kb. The mechanism by which this large and complex locus moves around the genome is unknown, but we speculate that it may involve the formation of double-strand DNA breaks by Fob1 protein or the formation of extrachromosomal rDNA circles.


    Estelle Proux-Wéra, Kevin P Byrne, Kenneth H Wolfe. Evolutionary mobility of the ribosomal DNA array in yeasts. Genome biology and evolution. 2013;5(3):525-31

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    PMID: 23419706

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