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Agronomy, Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, Statistics, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Genetics

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Published Version

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PLoS Genetics





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The Mu transposon system of maize is highly active, with each of the ∼50–100 copies transposing on average once each generation. The approximately one dozen distinct Mutransposons contain highly similar ∼215 bp terminal inverted repeats (TIRs) and generate 9-bp target site duplications (TSDs) upon insertion. Using a novel genome walking strategy that uses these conserved TIRs as primer binding sites, Mu insertion sites were amplified from Mu stocks and sequenced via 454 technology. 94% of ∼965,000 reads carried Mu TIRs, demonstrating the specificity of this strategy. Among these TIRs, 21 novel Mu TIRs were discovered, revealing additional complexity of the Mu transposon system. The distribution of >40,000 non-redundantMu insertion sites was strikingly non-uniform, such that rates increased in proportion to distance from the centromere. An identified putative Mu transposase binding consensus site does not explain this non-uniformity. An integrated genetic map containing more than 10,000 genetic markers was constructed and aligned to the sequence of the maize reference genome. Recombination rates (cM/Mb) are also strikingly non-uniform, with rates increasing in proportion to distance from the centromere. Mu insertion site frequencies are strongly correlated with recombination rates. Gene density does not fully explain the chromosomal distribution of Muinsertion and recombination sites, because pronounced preferences for the distal portion of chromosome are still observed even after accounting for gene density. The similarity of the distributions of Mu insertions and meiotic recombination sites suggests that common features, such as chromatin structure, are involved in site selection for both Mu insertion and meiotic recombination. The finding that Mu insertions and meiotic recombination sites both concentrate in genomic regions marked with epigenetic marks of open chromatin provides support for the hypothesis that open chromatin enhances rates of both Mu insertion and meiotic recombination.


This article is from PLoS Genet 5(11): e1000733. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000733. Posted with permission.


This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Liu et al



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