Genetic and epigenetic variation in 5S ribosomal RNA genes reveals genome dynamics in Arabidopsis thaliana

Nucleic Acids Res. 2018 Apr 6;46(6):3019-3033. doi: 10.1093/nar/gky163.


Organized in tandem repeat arrays in most eukaryotes and transcribed by RNA polymerase III, expression of 5S rRNA genes is under epigenetic control. To unveil mechanisms of transcriptional regulation, we obtained here in depth sequence information on 5S rRNA genes from the Arabidopsis thaliana genome and identified differential enrichment in epigenetic marks between the three 5S rDNA loci situated on chromosomes 3, 4 and 5. We reveal the chromosome 5 locus as the major source of an atypical, long 5S rRNA transcript characteristic of an open chromatin structure. 5S rRNA genes from this locus translocated in the Landsberg erecta ecotype as shown by linkage mapping and chromosome-specific FISH analysis. These variations in 5S rDNA locus organization cause changes in the spatial arrangement of chromosomes in the nucleus. Furthermore, 5S rRNA gene arrangements are highly dynamic with alterations in chromosomal positions through translocations in certain mutants of the RNA-directed DNA methylation pathway and important copy number variations among ecotypes. Finally, variations in 5S rRNA gene sequence, chromatin organization and transcripts indicate differential usage of 5S rDNA loci in distinct ecotypes. We suggest that both the usage of existing and new 5S rDNA loci resulting from translocations may impact neighboring chromatin organization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Chromosomes, Plant / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Epigenomics / methods*
  • Genes, rRNA / genetics*
  • Genome, Plant / genetics*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 5S / genetics*
  • Translocation, Genetic


  • Chromatin
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 5S