Evolutionary force of AT-rich repeats to trap genomic and episomal DNAs into the rice genome: lessons from endogenous pararetrovirus

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In plant genomes, the incorporation of DNA segments is not a common method of artificial gene transfer. Nevertheless, various segments of pararetroviruses have been found in plant genomes in recent decades. The rice genome contains a number of segments of endogenous rice tungro bacilliform virus-like sequences (ERTBVs), many of which are present between AT dinucleotide repeats (ATrs). Comparison of genomic sequences between two closely related rice subspecies, japonica and indica, allowed us to verify the preferential insertion of ERTBVs into ATrs. In addition to ERTBVs, the comparative analyses showed that ATrs occasionally incorporate repeat sequences including transposable elements, and a wide range of other sequences. Besides the known genomic sequences, the insertion sequences also represented DNAs of unclear origins together with ERTBVs, suggesting that ATrs have integrated episomal DNAs that would have been suspended in the nucleus. Such insertion DNAs might be trapped by ATrs in the genome in a host-dependent manner. Conversely, other simple mono- and dinucleotide sequence repeats (SSR) were less frequently involved in insertion events relative to ATrs. Therefore, ATrs could be regarded as hot spots of double-strand breaks that induce non-homologous end joining. The insertions within ATrs occasionally generated new gene-related sequences or involved structural modifications of existing genes. Likewise, in a comparison betweenArabidopsis thalianaandArabidopsis lyrata, the insertions preferred ATrs to other SSRs. Therefore ATrs in plant genomes could be considered as genomic dumping sites that have trapped various DNA molecules and may have exerted a powerful evolutionary force.

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