Two differentially stable rDNA loci coexist on the same chromosome and form a single nucleolus

Luciana Lazar-Stefanita, Jingchuan Luo, Max A.B. Haase, Weimin Zhang, Jef D. Boeke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The nucleolus is the most prominent membraneless compartment within the nucleus—dedicated to the metabolism of ribosomal RNA. Nucleoli are composed of hundreds of ribosomal DNA (rDNA) repeated genes that form large chromosomal clusters, whose high recombination rates can cause nucleolar dysfunction and promote genome instability. Intriguingly, the evolving architecture of eukaryotic genomes appears to have favored two strategic rDNA locations—where a single locus per chromosome is situated either near the centromere (CEN) or the telomere. Here, we deployed an innovative genome engineering approach to cut and paste to an ectopic chromosomal location—the ~1.5 mega-base rDNA locus in a single step using CRISPR technology. This “megablock” rDNA engineering was performed in a fused-karyotype strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The strategic repositioning of this locus within the megachromosome allowed experimentally mimicking and monitoring the outcome of an rDNA migratory event, in which twin rDNA loci coexist on the same chromosomal arm. We showed that the twin-rDNA yeast readily adapts, exhibiting wild-type growth and maintaining rRNA homeostasis, and that the twin loci form a single nucleolus throughout the cell cycle. Unexpectedly, the size of each rDNA array appears to depend on its position relative to the CEN, in that the locus that is CEN-distal undergoes size reduction at a higher frequency compared to the CEN-proximal counterpart. Finally, we provided molecular evidence supporting a mechanism called paralogous cis-rDNA interference, which potentially explains why placing two identical repeated arrays on the same chromosome may negatively affect their function and structural stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2219126120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number9
StatePublished - Feb 28 2023


  • Hi-C maps
  • cis duplicated rDNA loci
  • megablock chromosome engineering
  • nucleolus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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