A major component of the plant nuclear genome is constituted by different classes of repetitive DNA sequences. The structural, functional and evolutionary aspects of the satellite repetitive DNA families, and their organization in the chromosomes is reviewed. The tandem satellite DNA sequences exhibit characteristic chromosomal locations, usually at subtelomeric and centromeric regions. The repetitive DNA family(ies) may be widely distributed in a taxonomic family or a genus, or may be specific for a species, genome or even a chromosome. They may acquire large-scale variations in their sequence and copy number over an evolutionary time-scale. These features have formed the basis of extensive utilization of repetitive sequences for taxonomic and phylogenetic studies. Hybrid polyploids have especially proven to be excellent models for studying the evolution of repetitive DNA sequences. Recent studies explicitly show that some repetitive DNA families localized at the telomeres and centromeres have acquired important structural and functional significance. The repetitive elements are under different evolutionary constraints as compared to the genes. Satellite DNA families are thought to arise de novo as a consequence of molecular mechanisms such as unequal crossing over, rolling circle amplification, replication slippage and mutation that constitute "molecular drive".
Copyright 2005 S. Karger AG, Basel.