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1.  NBS1 plays a synergistic role with telomerase in the maintenance of telomeres in Arabidopsis thaliana 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:167.
Telomeres, as elaborate nucleo-protein complexes, ensure chromosomal stability. When impaired, the ends of linear chromosomes can be recognised by cellular repair mechanisms as double-strand DNA breaks and can be healed by non-homologous-end-joining activities to produce dicentric chromosomes. During cell divisions, particularly during anaphase, dicentrics can break, thus producing naked chromosome tips susceptible to additional unwanted chromosome fusion. Many telomere-building protein complexes are associated with telomeres to ensure their proper capping function. It has been found however, that a number of repair complexes also contribute to telomere stability.
We used Arabidopsis thaliana to study the possible functions of the DNA repair subunit, NBS1, in telomere homeostasis using knockout nbs1 mutants. The results showed that although NBS1-deficient plants were viable, lacked any sign of developmental aberration and produced fertile seeds through many generations upon self-fertilisation, plants also missing the functional telomerase (double mutants), rapidly, within three generations, displayed severe developmental defects. Cytogenetic inspection of cycling somatic cells revealed a very early onset of massive genome instability. Molecular methods used for examining the length of telomeres in double homozygous mutants detected much faster telomere shortening than in plants deficient in telomerase gene alone.
Our findings suggest that NBS1 acts in concert with telomerase and plays a profound role in plant telomere renewal.
PMCID: PMC3490983  PMID: 22985462
2.  Repeated reunions and splits feature the highly dynamic evolution of 5S and 35S ribosomal RNA genes (rDNA) in the Asteraceae family 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:176.
In flowering plants and animals the most common ribosomal RNA genes (rDNA) organisation is that in which 35S (encoding 18S-5.8S-26S rRNA) and 5S genes are physically separated occupying different chromosomal loci. However, recent observations established that both genes have been unified to a single 35S-5S unit in the genus Artemisia (Asteraceae), a genomic arrangement typical of primitive eukaryotes such as yeast, among others. Here we aim to reveal the origin, distribution and mechanisms leading to the linked organisation of rDNA in the Asteraceae by analysing unit structure (PCR, Southern blot, sequencing), gene copy number (quantitative PCR) and chromosomal position (FISH) of 5S and 35S rRNA genes in ~200 species representing the family diversity and other closely related groups.
Dominant linked rDNA genotype was found within three large groups in subfamily Asteroideae: tribe Anthemideae (93% of the studied cases), tribe Gnaphalieae (100%) and in the "Heliantheae alliance" (23%). The remaining five tribes of the Asteroideae displayed canonical non linked arrangement of rDNA, as did the other groups in the Asteraceae. Nevertheless, low copy linked genes were identified among several species that amplified unlinked units. The conserved position of functional 5S insertions downstream from the 26S gene suggests a unique, perhaps retrotransposon-mediated integration event at the base of subfamily Asteroideae. Further evolution likely involved divergence of 26S-5S intergenic spacers, amplification and homogenisation of units across the chromosomes and concomitant elimination of unlinked arrays. However, the opposite trend, from linked towards unlinked arrangement was also surmised in few species indicating possible reversibility of these processes.
Our results indicate that nearly 25% of Asteraceae species may have evolved unusual linked arrangement of rRNA genes. Thus, in plants, fundamental changes in intrinsic structure of rDNA units, their copy number and chromosomal organisation may occur within relatively short evolutionary time. We hypothesize that the 5S gene integration within the 35S unit might have repeatedly occurred during plant evolution, and probably once in Asteraceae.
PMCID: PMC3095306  PMID: 20712858

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