LTR retrotransposons are major components of plant genomes playing important roles in the evolution of their host genomes, for example, generating new genes or providing new promoters to existing genes. The Grande family of retrotransposons is present in Zea species and is characterized by an unusually long internal region due to the presence of a 7-kbp region between the gag-pol coding region and the 3′LTR. We demonstrate here that such unusual sequence is present in the great majority of Grande copies in maize genome. This region contains a gene, gene23, which is transcribed from its own promoter in antisense orientation to the gag-pol genes. The expression of gene23 is ubiquitous, and its promoter contains all the putative consensus sequences typical of eukaryotic promoters, being able to direct GUS expression in different plant species and organs. The coding region of gene23 is conserved in most Grande copies and encodes a protein rich in glycine, serine, and acidic amino acids that shows no significant similarity with any protein of known function. Nevertheless, the C- and N-terminal parts are rich in basic amino acids, and these are interspersed with other amino acids in its C-terminus, compatible with a putative DNA-binding function. It contains a nuclear localization signal KRKR motif in the N-terminus. Fusions to GFP demonstrate that this protein localizes in the nucleus. We discuss the possible origin of gene23 and the potential function of its encoded protein.
Plant Molecular Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 20, 2013
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