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The insertion of DNA into a genome can result in the duplication and dispersal of functional sequences through the genome. In addition, a deeper understanding of insertion mechanisms will inform methods of genetic engineering and plant transformation. Exploiting structural variations in numerous rice accessions, we have inferred and analyzed intermediate length (10-1,000 bp) insertions in plants. Insertions in this size class were found to be approximately equal in frequency to deletions, and compound insertion-deletions comprised only 0.1% of all events. Our findings indicate that, as observed in humans, tandem or partially tandem duplications are the dominant form of insertion (48%), although short duplications from ectopic donors account for a sizable fraction of insertions in rice (38%). Many nontandem duplications contain insertions from nearby DNA (within 200 bp) and can contain multiple donor sources--some distant--in single events. Although replication slippage is a plausible explanation for tandem duplications, the end homology required in such a model is most often absent and rarely is >5 bp. However, end homology is commonly longer than expected by chance. Such findings lead us to favor a model of patch-mediated double-strand-break creation followed by nonhomologous end-joining. Additionally, a striking bias toward 31-bp partially tandem duplications suggests that errors in nucleotide excision repair may be resolved via a similar, but distinct, pathway. In summary, the analysis of recent insertions in rice suggests multiple underappreciated causes of structural variation in eukaryotes.


Justin N Vaughn, Jeffrey L Bennetzen. Natural insertions in rice commonly form tandem duplications indicative of patch-mediated double-strand break induction and repair. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2014 May 6;111(18):6684-9

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PMID: 24760826

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