Genomic architecture of 5S rDNA cluster and its variations within and between species

Qiutao Ding, Runsheng Li, Xiaoliang Ren, Lu-yan Chan, Vincy W. S. Ho, Dongying Xie, Pohao Ye, Zhongying Zhao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Ribosomal genes (rDNAs) are arranged in purely tandem repeats, preventing them from being reliably assembled onto chromosome. The uncertainty of rDNA genomic structure presents a significant barrier for studying their function and evolution. Here, we generate ultra-long Nanopore and short NGS reads to delineate the architecture and variation of the 5S rDNA cluster in the different strains of C. elegans and C. briggsae. We classify the individual rDNA units into 25 types based on the unique sequence variations in each unit of C. elegans (N2). We next perform manual assembly of the cluster using the long reads that carry these units, which led to an assembly of rDNA cluster consisting of up to 167 5S rDNA units. The ordering and copy number of various rDNA units are indicative of separation time between strains. Surprisingly, we observed a drastically lower level of variation in the 5S rDNA cluster in the C. elegans CB4856 and C. briggsae AF16 strains than C. elegans N2 strain, suggesting a unique mechanism in maintaining the rDNA cluster stability in the N2. Single-copy transgenes landed into the rDNA cluster shows the expected expression in the soma, supporting that rDNA genomic environment is transcriptionally compatible with RNA polymerase II. Delineating the structure and variation of rDNA cluster paves the way for its functional and evolutionary studies.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
Number of pages58
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2021

User-Defined Keywords

  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • C. briggsae
  • rDNA cluster
  • 5S
  • 18S-5.8S-26S,16
  • Nanopore sequencing


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