Publication details

The variation of base composition in plant genomes



Year of publication 2012
Type Chapter of a book
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Description The proportions of the four nucleotides in DNA may vary significantly in various genome components and with different selective forces acting on particular sequences. Base composition is conventionally expressed as the percentage of guanine (G) and cytosine (C) bases (GC content) in a given region or for the entire genome (genomic GC content). Both the knowledge of mechanisms causing changes in GC content and their ecological consequences are fundamental for understanding genome evolution. The study of GC content has a long tradition in prokaryotic biology and systematics, where it serves as an important criterion in taxa delimitation and predictions of life-styles, such as thermotolerance, growth rate or aerobiosis. The GC content of taxa also has been widely discussed in animal genomics, namely, in the consequences of the evolution of the isochore structure of humans and other warm-blooded vertebrates. However, less attention has been paid to the GC content of plant genomes, for which the knowledge of detailed base composition and its meaning in the ecology and evolution of particular taxa is still poor. Here, we survey existing research concerning GC content of plant nuclear genomes and outline some directions for possible interpretations of the biological meaning of variation in GC content viewed in the context of work done on bacterial and animal genomes. We hope that the examples and proposed explanations will stimulate future testing of their validity in plant genomes. We primarily concentrate on overall genomic base composition. Nevertheless, variation of GC content and its function in particular genomic components is also discussed.
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