Long identical multispecies elements in plant and animal genomes

Jeff Reneker, Eric Lyons, Gavin C. Conant, J. Chris Pires, Michael Freeling, Chi Ren Shyu, Dmitry Korkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Ultraconserved elements (UCEs) are DNA sequences that are 100% identical (no base substitutions, insertions, or deletions) and located in syntenic positions in at least two genomes. Although hundreds of UCEs have been found in animal genomes, little is known about the incidence of ultraconservation in plant genomes. Using an alignment-free information-retrieval approach, we have comprehensively identified all long identical multispecies elements (LIMEs), which include both syntenic and nonsyntenic regions, of at least 100 identical base pairs shared by at least two genomes. Among six animal genomes, we found the previously known syntenic UCEs as well as previously undescribed nonsyntenic elements. In contrast, among six plant genomes, we only found nonsyntenic LIMEs. LIMEs can also be classified as either simple (repetitive) or complex (non-repetitive), they may occur in multiple copies in a genome, and they are often spread across multiple chromosomes. Although complex LIMEs were found in both animal and plant genomes, they differed significantly in their composition and copy number. Further analyses of plant LIMEs revealed their functional diversity, encompassing elements found near rRNA and enzyme-coding genes, as well as those found in transposons and noncoding DNA. We conclude that despite the common presence of LIMEs in both animal and plant lineages, the evolutionary processes involved in the creation and maintenance of these elements differ in the two groups and are likely attributable to several mechanisms, including transfer of genetic material from organellar to nuclear genomes, de novo sequence manufacturing, and purifying selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1183-E1191
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 8 2012


  • Extreme conservation
  • Repetitive elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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