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Species-specific shifts in centromere sequence composition are coincident with breakpoint reuse in karyotypically divergent lineages

Kira V Bulazel1, Gianni C Ferreri1, Mark DB Eldridge23 and Rachel J O'Neill1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Mansfield Rd, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, USA

2 Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia

3 Molecular Biology, Australian Museum, College St, Sydney, NSW 2010, Australia

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Genome Biology 2007, 8:R170  doi:10.1186/gb-2007-8-8-r170

Published: 20 August 2007

Abstract

Background

It has been hypothesized that rapid divergence in centromere sequences accompanies rapid karyotypic change during speciation. However, the reuse of breakpoints coincident with centromeres in the evolution of divergent karyotypes poses a potential paradox. In distantly related species where the same centromere breakpoints are used in the independent derivation of karyotypes, centromere-specific sequences may undergo convergent evolution rather than rapid sequence divergence. To determine whether centromere sequence composition follows the phylogenetic history of species evolution or patterns of convergent breakpoint reuse through chromosome evolution, we examined the phylogenetic trajectory of centromere sequences within a group of karyotypically diverse mammals, macropodine marsupials (wallabies, wallaroos and kangaroos).

Results

The evolution of three classes of centromere sequences across nine species within the genus Macropus (including Wallabia) were compared with the phylogenetic history of a mitochondrial gene, Cytochrome b (Cyt b), a nuclear gene, selenocysteine tRNA (TRSP), and the chromosomal histories of the syntenic blocks that define the different karyotype arrangements. Convergent contraction or expansion of predominant satellites is found to accompany specific karyotype rearrangements. The phylogenetic history of these centromere sequences includes the convergence of centromere composition in divergent species through convergent breakpoint reuse between syntenic blocks.

Conclusion

These data support the 'library hypothesis' of centromere evolution within this genus as each species possesses all three satellites yet each species has experienced differential expansion and contraction of individual classes. Thus, we have identified a correlation between the evolution of centromere satellite sequences, the reuse of syntenic breakpoints, and karyotype convergence in the context of a gene-based phylogeny.