Isochore structures in the genome of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana

J Mol Evol. 2004 Aug;59(2):227-38. doi: 10.1007/s00239-004-2617-8.


Arabidopsis thaliana is an important model system for the study of plant biology. We have analyzed the complete genome sequences of Arabidopsis by using a newly developed windowless method for the GC content computation, the cumulative GC profile. It is shown that the Arabidopsis genome is organized into a mosaic structure of isochores. All the centromeric regions are located in GC-rich isochores, called centromere-isochores, which are characterized by a high GC content but low gene and T-DNA insertion densities. This characteristic distinguishes centromere-isochores from the other class of GC-rich isochores, called GC-isochores, which have high gene and T-DNA insertion densities. Consequently, 15 isochores have been identified, i.e., 7 AT-isochores, 3 GC-isochores, and 5 centromere-isochores. The genes in centromere-isochores, which have the highest GC content, have much shorter intron lengths and lower intron numbers, compared to those of the other two types. There is also considerable difference in the numbers and lengths of transposable elements (TEs) between AT and GC-isochores, i.e., the TE number (length) of AT-isochores is 6.3 (7.3) times that of GC-isochores. It is generally believed that TEs are accumulated in the regions surrounding the centromeres. However, within these TE-rich regions, there are regions of extremely low TE numbers (TE deserts), which correspond to the positions of centromere-isochores. In addition, a heterochromatic knob is located at the boundary of an AT-isochore. Furthermore, we show that the differences in GC content among isochores are mainly due to the GC content variation of introns, the third codon positions and intergenic regions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Base Composition / genetics*
  • Centromere / genetics
  • Databases, Nucleic Acid
  • Genome, Plant*
  • Isochores / genetics*
  • Models, Genetic


  • Isochores