Telomere-associated repeats in Chironomus form discrete subfamilies generated by gene conversion
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In dipteran insects the most distal telomere-associated DNA known to exist consists of long, complex tandem repeats. We have classified the 340-bp tandemly arranged repeats in Chironomus pallidivittatus. The repeats are distributed in a small number of subfamilies. One type of the repeat has the character of a master unit from which other main units can be derived usually by simple changes. The derived subfamilies contain segments that are degenerate versions of the corresponding segment in the master sequence. Such segments can also occur together in one and the same repeat unit in different combinations. There is a complete absence of subfamily-specific base variants in regions lying outside of the degenerate segments. Homogenization takes place between DNA sequences that are often smaller than a whole repeat unit. The mosaic structure of the repeat arrays suggests that gene conversion is an important force in the generation and maintenance of this family of repeats.