Dancing together and separate again: gymnosperms exhibit frequent changes of fundamental 5S and 35S rRNA gene (rDNA) organisation
In higher eukaryotes, the 5S rRNA genes occur in tandem units and are arranged either separately (S-type arrangement) or linked to other repeated genes, in most cases to rDNA locus encoding 18S-5.8S-26S genes (L-type arrangement). Here we used Southern blot hybridisation, PCR and sequencing approaches to analyse genomic organisation of rRNA genes in all large gymnosperm groups, including Coniferales, Ginkgoales, Gnetales and Cycadales. The data are provided for 27 species (21 genera). The 5S units linked to the 35S rDNA units occur in some but not all Gnetales, Coniferales and in Ginkgo (similar to 30% of the species analysed), while the remaining exhibit separate organisation. The linked 5S rRNA genes may occur as single-copy insertions or as short tandems embedded in the 26S-18S rDNA intergenic spacer (IGS). The 5S transcript may be encoded by the same (Ginkgo, Ephedra) or opposite (Podocarpus) DNA strand as the 18S-5.8S-26S genes. In addition, pseudogenised 5S copies were also found in some IGS types. Both L- and S-type units have been largely homogenised across the genomes. Phylogenetic relationships based on the comparison of 5S coding sequences suggest that the 5S genes independently inserted IGS at least three times in the course of gymnosperm evolution. Frequent transpositions and rearrangements of basic units indicate relatively relaxed selection pressures imposed on genomic organisation of 5S genes in plants.