Evolution of ribosomal DNA unit on the X chromosome independent of autosomal units in the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha

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In the haploid dioecious liverwort, Marchantia polymorpha, the X chromosome, but not the Y, carries a zcluster of ribosomal RNA genes (rDNAs). Here we show that sequences of 5S, 17S, 5.8S and 26S rDNAs are highly conserved (>99% identity) between the X chromosomal and autosomal rDNA repeat units, but the intergenic spacer sequences differ considerably. The most prominent difference is the presence of a 615-bp DNA fragment in the intergenic spacer, X615, which has accumulated predominantly in the rDNA cluster of the X chromosome. These observations suggest that the rDNA repeat unit on the X chromosome evolved independently of that on autosomes, incorporating sex chromosome-specific sequences.

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