On the essence of “meaningless” simple repetitive DNA in eukaryote genomes

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Summary

Various kinds of simple tandemly repetitive DNA sequences are abundantly interspersed in the genomes of practically all eukaryotic species studied. The comparatively elevated mutation rates of simple repeat blocks result in highly polymorphic and therefore extremely informative investigation systems for studies on forensic, ecological and genetic relationship questions. Recently the techniques for analyzing simple repeats have achieved great effectivity and simplicity. Beyond their utility as tools for differentiation and individualization, certain of these repeated elements harbor quite unexpected qualities which may be discussed in the context of their biological meaning. i) A specific subset of simple (cac) n or (gtg) n repeats is expressed in mature mRNA and total cellular RNA. ii) Despite the apparently high mutation rate certain (gt) n or mixed (gt) n /(ga) m stretches of intronic simple repeats are preserved in immunologically relevant genes for at least 70 × 106 years and they bind nuclear protein molecules with high affinities. Consequently in addition to their tool character, the biological aspects of simple repeated DNA should be taken into consideration.