Chromosome-specific subsets of human alpha satellite DNA: analysis of sequence divergence within and between chromosomal subsets and evidence for an ancestral pentameric repeat.
The centromeric regions of human chromosomes are characterized by diverged chromosome-specific subsets of a tandemly repeated DNA family, alpha satellite, which is based on a fundamental monomer repeat unit approximately 171 bp in length. We have compared the nucleotide sequences of 44 alphoid monomers derived from cloned representatives of the multimeric higher-order repeat units of human chromosomes 1, 11, 17, and X. The 44 monomers exhibit an average 16% divergence from a consensus alphoid sequence, and can be assigned to five distinct homology groups based on patterns of sequence substitutions and gaps relative to the consensus. Approximately half of the overall sequence divergence can be accounted for by sequence changes specific to a particular homology group; the remaining divergence appears to be independent of the five groups and is randomly distributed, both within and between chromosomal subsets. The data are consistent with the proposal that the contemporary tandem arrays on chromosomes 1, 11, 17, and X derive from a common multimeric repeat, consisting of one monomer each from the five homology groups. The sequence comparisons suggest that this pentameric repeat must have spread to these four chromosomal locations many millions of years ago, since which time evolution of the four, now chromosome-specific, alpha satellite subsets has been essentially independent.
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