Born in the mitochondrion and raised in the nucleus: evolution of a novel tandem repeat family in Medicago polymorpha (Fabaceae)

In Su Choi, Martin F. Wojciechowski, Kelly P. Steele, Sarah G. Hunter, Tracey A. Ruhlman, Robert K. Jansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Plant nuclear genomes harbor sequence elements derived from the organelles (mitochondrion and plastid) through intracellular gene transfer (IGT). Nuclear genomes also show a dramatic range of repeat content, suggesting that any sequence can be readily amplified. These two aspects of plant nuclear genomes are well recognized but have rarely been linked. Through investigation of 31 Medicago taxa we detected exceptionally high post-IGT amplification of mitochondrial (mt) DNA sequences containing rps10 in the nuclear genome of Medicago polymorpha and closely related species. The amplified sequences were characterized as tandem arrays of five distinct repeat motifs (2157, 1064, 987, 971, and 587 bp) that have diverged from the mt genome (mitogenome) in the M. polymorpha nuclear genome. The mt rps10-like arrays were identified in seven loci (six intergenic and one telomeric) of the nuclear chromosome assemblies and were the most abundant tandem repeat family, representing 1.6–3.0% of total genomic DNA, a value approximately three-fold greater than the entire mitogenome in M. polymorpha. Compared to a typical mt gene, the mt rps10-like sequence coverage level was 691.5–7198-fold higher in M. polymorpha and closely related species. In addition to the post-IGT amplification, our analysis identified the canonical telomeric repeat and the species-specific satellite arrays that are likely attributable to an ancestral chromosomal fusion in M. polymorpha. A possible relationship between chromosomal instability and the mt rps10-like tandem repeat family in the M. polymorpha clade is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-406
Number of pages18
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Medicago polymorpha
  • amplification
  • burr medic
  • dysploidy
  • endosymbiotic gene transfer
  • legumes
  • mitochondrial DNA
  • satellite repeat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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