Restless 5S: The re-arrangement(s) and evolution of the nuclear ribosomal DNA in land plants

Wicke S, Costa A, Muñoz J, Quandt D

Research article (journal)


Among eukaryotes two types of nuclear ribosomal DNA (nrDNA) organization have been observed. Eitherall components, i.e. the small ribosomal subunit, 5.8S, large ribosomal subunit, and 5S occur tandemlyarranged or the 5S rDNA forms a separate cluster of its own. Generalizations based on data derived fromjust a few model organisms have led to a superimposition of structural and evolutionary traits to the entire plant kingdom asserting that plants generally possess separate arrays. This study reveals that plant nrDNA organization into separate arrays is not a distinctive feature, but rather assignable almost solely to seed plants. We show that early diverging land plants and presumably streptophyte algae share a co-localization of all rRNA genes within one repeat unit. This raises the possibility that the state of rDNA gene co-localization had occurred in their common ancestor. Separate rDNA arrays were identified for all basal seed plants and water ferns, implying at least two independent 5SrDNA transposition events during land plant evolution. Screening for 5S derived Cassandra transposable elements which might have played a role during the transposition events, indicated that this retrotransposon is absent in early diverging vascular plants including early fern lineages. Thus, Cassandra can be rejected as a primary mechanism for 5S rDNA transposition in water ferns. However, the evolution of Cassandra and other eukaryotic 5S derived elements might have been a side effect of the 5S rDNA cluster formation. Structural analysis of the intergenic spacers of the ribosomal clusters revealed that transposition events partially affect spacer regions and suggests a slightly different transcription regulation of 5S rDNA in early land plants. 5S rDNA upstream regulatory elements are highly divergent or absent from the LSU–5S spacers of most early divergent land plant lineages. Several putative scenarios and mechanisms involved in the concerted relocation of hundreds of 5S rRNA gene copies are discussed.

Details zur Publikation

Pages: 12
Release year: 2011
Language in which the publication is writtenEnglish