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Cross-hybridizing snake satellite, Drosophila, and mouse DNA sequences may have arisen independently.


Previous reports have interpreted hybridization between snake satellite DNA and DNA clones from a variety of distant taxonomic groups as evidence for evolutionary conservation, which implies common ancestry (homology) and/or convergence (analogy) to produce the cross-hybridizing sequences. We have isolated 11 clones from a genomic library of Drosophila melanogaster, using a cloned 2.5-kb snake satellite probe of known nucleotide sequence. We have also analysed published sequence data from snakes, mice, and Drosophila. These data show that (1) all of the cross-hybridization between the snake, fly, and mouse clones can be accounted for by the presence of either of two tandem repeats, [GATA]n and [GACA]n and (2) these tandem repeats are organized differently among the different species. We find no evidence that these sequences are homologous apart from the existence of the simple repeat itself, although their divergence from a common ancestral sequence cannot be ruled out. The sequences contain a variety of homogeneous clusters of tandem repeats of CATA, GA, TA, and CA, as well as GATA and GACA. We suggest that these motifs may have arisen by a self-accelerating process involving slipped-strand mispairing of DNA. Homogeneity of the clusters might simply be the result of a rate of accumulation of tandem repeats that exceeds that of other mutations.

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