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Distribution of 45S rDNA sites in chromosomes of plants: Structural and evolutionary implications

Fernando Roa and Marcelo Guerra*

Author Affiliations

Department of Botany Laboratory of Plant Cytogenetics and Evolution, Federal University of Pernambuco Center of Biological Sciences, Rua Nelson Chaves, s/n Cidade Universitária, Recife, PE, 50.670-420, Brazil

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2012, 12:225  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-225

Published: 26 November 2012



45S rDNA sites are the most widely documented chromosomal regions in eukaryotes. The analysis of the distribution of these sites along the chromosome in several genera has suggested some bias in their distribution. In order to evaluate if these loci are in fact non-randomly distributed and what is the influence of some chromosomal and karyotypic features on the distribution of these sites, a database was built with the position and number of 45S rDNA sites obtained by FISH together with other karyotypic data from 846 plant species.


In angiosperms the most frequent numbers of sites per diploid karyotype were two and four, suggesting that in spite of the wide dispersion capacity of these sequences the number of rDNA sites tends to be restricted. The sites showed a preferential distribution on the short arms, mainly in the terminal regions. Curiously, these sites were frequently found on the short arms of acrocentric chromosomes where they usually occupy the whole arm. The trend to occupy the terminal region is especially evident in holokinetic chromosomes, where all of them were terminally located. In polyploids there is a trend towards reduction in the number of sites per monoploid complement. In gymnosperms, however, the distribution of rDNA sites varied strongly among the sampled families.


The location of 45S rDNA sites do not vary randomly, occurring preferentially on the short arm and in the terminal region of chromosomes in angiosperms. The meaning of this preferential location is not known, but some hypotheses are considered and the observed trends are discussed.

45S rDNA sites; Chromosome regions; Secondary constrictions; NOR; Meta-analysis