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Repetitive sequences originating from the centromere constitute large-scale heterochromatin in the telomere region in the siamang, a small ape

Koga A, Hirai Y, Hara T, Hirai T

Chromosomes of the siamang Symphalangus syndactylus (a small ape) carry large-scale heterochromatic structures at their ends. These structures look similar, by chromosome C-banding, to chromosome-end heterochromatin found in chimpanzee, bonobo and gorilla (African great apes), of which a major component is tandem repeats of 32-bp-long, AT-rich units. In the present study, we identified repetitive sequences that are a major component of the siamang heterochromatin. Their repeat units are 171 bp in length, and exhibit sequence similarity to alpha satellite DNA, a major component of the centromeres in primates. Thus, the large-scale heterochromatic structures have different origins between the great apes and the small ape. The presence of alpha satellite DNA in the telomere region has previously been reported in the white-cheeked gibbon Nomascus leucogenys, another small ape species. There is, however, a difference in the size of the telomere-region alpha satellite DNA, which is far larger in the siamang. It is not known whether the sequences of these two species (of different genera) have a common origin because the phylogenetic relationship of genera within the small ape family is still not clear. Possible evolutionary scenarios are discussed.

Heredity: doi 10.1038/hdy.2012.28 (2012)

JUN/8/2012

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