The ankyrin (ANK) gene cluster is a part of a multigene family encoding ANK transmembrane proteins in Arabidopsis thaliana, and plays an important role in protein–protein interactions and in signal pathways. In contrast to other regions of a genome, the ANK gene cluster exhibits an extremely high level of DNA polymorphism in an ∼5-kb region, without apparent decay. Phylogenetic analysis detects two clear, deeply differentiated haplotypes (dimorphism). The divergence between haplotypes of accession Col-0 and Ler-0 (Hap-C and Hap-L) is estimated to be 10.7%, approximately equal to the 10.5% average divergence between A. thaliana and A. lyrata. Sequence comparisons for the ANK gene cluster homologues in Col-0 indicate that the members evolve independently, and that the similarity among paralogues is lower than between alleles. Very little intralocus recombination or gene conversion is detected in ANK regions. All these characteristics of the ANK gene cluster are consistent with a tandem gene duplication and birth-and-death process. The possible mechanisms for and implications of this elevated nucleotide variation are also discussed, including the suggestion of balancing selection.
Volume 101, 2022
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