, Volume 58, Issue 2, pp 155-168

Satellite DNA and cytogenetic evolution

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The genusDipodomys (kangaroo rats) exhibits major interspecies variations in the proportions of highly reiterated satellite DNA sequences in the genome as well as in the chromosome number and the proportions of uni-armed and bi-armed chromosomes. For nearly all of the approximately 22 species of the genus and several subspecies, liver DNA was distributed in neutral CsCl buoyant density gradients into four fractions: principal DNA (1.698 g/ml), intermediate-density DNA (1.702 g/ml), MS satellite (1.707 g/ml) and HS (heavy) satellites (1.713 g/ml). The total nuclear DNA content of diploid liver cells measured in eleven species by quantitative cytophotometry, ranged from 6.9 to 10.9 pg. These data were correlated with known features of the karyotypes of individual species. The salient findings were: (1) that interspecies variations in diploid chromosome number cluster at 52–54, 60–64 and 70–72 (2) that high total nuclear DNA was associated with high chromosome number, and with relatively large amounts of satellite DNA (3) that a high ratio of HS satellites to intermediate-density DNA was generally correlated with a predominance of metacentric and submetacentric chromosomes (high fundamental number). The relationships of satellite DNA to karyotype structure reveal a new level of hierarchy in the genome that appears capable of exerting global control over environmental adaptation and the evolution of new species. This mechanism is consistent with recent hypotheses that changes in the macro-structure of the genome are more important than point mutations in facilitating the rapid phases of animal evolution.