Sequence analysis of a newly identified polyubiquitin gene (UBQ13) from the Columbia ecotype of Arabidopsis thaliana revealed that the gene contained a 3.9-kb insertion in the coding region. All subclones of the 3.9-kb insert hybridized to isolated mitochondrial DNA. The insert was found to consist of at least two, possibly three, distinct DNA segments from the mitochondrial genome. A 590-bp region of the insert is nearly identical to the Arabidopsis mitochondrial nad1 gene. UBQ13 restriction fragments in total cellular DNA from ecotypes Ler, No-0, Be-0, WS, and RLD were identified and, with the exception of Be-0, their sizes were equivalent to that predicted from the corresponding ecotype Columbia UBQ13 restriction fragment without the mitochondrial insert. Isolation by polymerase chain reaction and sequence determination of UBQ13 sequences from the other ecotypes showed that all lacted the mitochondrial insert. All ecotypes examined, except Columbia, contain intact open reading frames in the region of the insert, including four ubiquitin codons which Columbia lacks. This indicates that the mitochondrial DNA in UBQ13 in ecotype Columbia is the result of an integration event that occurred after speciation of Arabidopsis rather than a deletion event that occurred in all ecotypes except Columbia. This stable movement of mitochondrial DNA to the nucleus is so recent that there are few nucleotide changes subsequent to the tranfer event. This allows for precise analysis of the sequences involved and elucidation of the possible mechanism. The presence of intron sequences in the transferred nucleic acid indicates that DNA was the transfer intermediate. The lack of sequence identity between the integrating sequence and the target site, represented by the other Arabidopsis ecotypes, suggests that integration occurred via nonhomologus recombination. This nuclear/organellar gene transfer event is strikingly similar to the experimentally accessible process of nuclear integration of introduced heterologous DNA.
ASJC Scopus subject areas