Organization and variability of the maize genome.
Current opinion in plant biology. 9:157-63. Abstract
With a size approximating that of the human genome, the maize genome is about to become the largest plant genome yet sequenced. Contributing to that size are a whole-genome duplication event and a retrotransposition explosion that produced a large amount of repetitive DNA. This DNA is greatly under-represented in cDNA collections, so analysis of the maize transcriptome has been an expedient way of assessing the gene content of maize. Over 2 million maize cDNA sequences are now available, making maize the third most widely studied organism, behind mouse and man. To date, the sequencing of large-sized DNA clones has been largely driven by the genetic interests of different investigators. The recent construction of a physical map that is anchored to the genetic map will aid immensely in the maize genome-sequencing effort. However, studies showing that the repetitive DNA component is highly polymorphic among maize inbred lines point to the need to sample vertically a few specific regions of the genome to evaluate the extent and importance of this variability.
Retrotranspositions in orthologous regions of closely related grass species.
BMC evolutionary biology. 6:62. Abstract
BACKGROUND: Retrotransposons are commonly occurring eukaryotic transposable elements (TEs). Among these, long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposons are the most abundant TEs and can comprise 50-90% of the genome in higher plants. By comparing the orthologous chromosomal regions of closely related species, the effects of TEs on the evolution of plant genomes can be studied in detail. RESULTS: Here, we compared the composition and organization of TEs within five orthologous chromosomal regions among three grass species: maize, sorghum, and rice. We identified a total of 132 full or fragmented LTR retrotransposons in these regions. As a percentage of the total cumulative sequence in each species, LTR retrotransposons occupy 45.1% of the maize, 21.1% of the rice, and 3.7% of the sorghum regions. The most common elements in the maize retrotransposon-rich regions are the copia-like retrotransposons with 39% and the gypsy-like retrotransposons with 37%. Using the contiguous sequence of the orthologous regions, we detected 108 retrotransposons with intact target duplication sites and both LTR termini. Here, we show that 74% of these elements inserted into their host genome less than 1 million years ago and that many retroelements expanded in size by the insertion of other sequences. These inserts were predominantly other retroelements, however, several of them were also fragmented genes. Unforeseen was the finding of intact genes embedded within LTR retrotransposons. CONCLUSION: Although the abundance of retroelements between maize and rice is consistent with their different genome sizes of 2,364 and 389 Mb respectively, the content of retrotransposons in sorghum (790 Mb) is surprisingly low. In all three species, retrotransposition is a very recent activity relative to their speciation. While it was known that genes re-insert into non-orthologous positions of plant genomes, they appear to re-insert also within retrotransposons, potentially providing an important role for retrotransposons in the evolution of gene function.
Uneven chromosome contraction and expansion in the maize genome.
Genome research. 16:1241-51. Abstract
Maize (Zea mays or corn), both a major food source and an important cytogenetic model, evolved from a tetraploid that arose about 4.8 million years ago (Mya). As a result, maize has extensive duplicated regions within its genome. We have sequenced the two copies of one such region, generating 7.8 Mb of sequence spanning 17.4 cM of the short arm of chromosome 1 and 6.6 Mb (25.6 cM) from the long arm of chromosome 9. Rice, which did not undergo a similar whole genome duplication event, has only one orthologous region (4.9 Mb) on the short arm of chromosome 3, and can be used as reference for the maize homoeologous regions. Alignment of the three regions allowed identification of syntenic blocks, and indicated that the maize regions have undergone differential contraction in genic and intergenic regions and expansion by the insertion of retrotransposable elements. Approximately 9% of the predicted genes in each duplicated region are completely missing in the rice genome, and almost 20% have moved to other genomic locations. Predicted genes within these regions tend to be larger in maize than in rice, primarily because of the presence of predicted genes in maize with larger introns. Interestingly, the general gene methylation patterns in the maize homoeologous regions do not appear to have changed with contraction or expansion of their chromosomes. In addition, no differences in methylation of single genes and tandemly repeated gene copies have been detected. These results, therefore, provide new insights into the diploidization of polyploid species.