The compact Brachypodium genome conserves centromeric regions of a common ancestor with wheat and rice

Lili Qi, Bernd Friebe, Jiajie Wu, Yongqiang Gu, Chen Qian, Bikram S Gill
Functional & Integrative Genomics 2010, 10 (4): 477-92
The evolution of five chromosomes of Brachypodium distachyon from a 12-chromosome ancestor of all grasses by dysploidy raises an interesting question about the fate of redundant centromeres. Three independent but complementary approaches were pursued to study centromeric region homologies among the chromosomes of Brachypodium, wheat, and rice. The genes present in pericentromeres of the basic set of seven chromosomes of wheat and the Triticeae, and the 80 rice centromeric genes spanning the CENH3 binding domain of centromeres 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8 were used as "anchor" markers to identify centromere locations in the B. distachyon chromosomes. A total of 53 B. distachyon bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones anchored by wheat pericentromeric expressed sequence tags (ESTs) were used as probes for BAC-fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis of B. distachyon mitotic chromosomes. Integrated sequence alignment and BAC-FISH data were used to determine the approximate positions of active and inactive centromeres in the five B. distachyon chromosomes. The following syntenic relationships of the centromeres for Brachypodium (Bd), rice (R), and wheat (W) were evident: Bd1-R6, Bd2-R5-W1, Bd3-R10, Bd4-R11-W4, and Bd5-R4. Six rice centromeres syntenic to five wheat centromeres were inactive in Brachypodium chromosomes. The conservation of centromere gene synteny among several sets of homologous centromeres of three species indicates that active genes can persist in ancient centromeres with more than 40 million years of shared evolutionary history. Annotation of a BAC contig spanning an inactive centromere in chromosome Bd3 which is syntenic to rice Cen8 and W7 pericentromeres, along with BAC FISH data from inactive centromeres revealed that the centromere inactivation was accompanied by the loss of centromeric retrotransposons and turnover of centromere-specific satellites during Bd chromosome evolution.

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