Ribosomal rRNAs account for >60% of all RNAs in eukaryotic cells and are encoded in the ribosomal DNA (rDNA) arrays. The rRNAs are produced from two sets of loci: the 5S rDNA array resides exclusively on human chromosome 1, while the 45S rDNA array resides on the short arm of five human acrocentric chromosomes. The 45S rDNA gives origin to the nucleolus, the nuclear organelle that is the site of ribosome biogenesis. Intriguingly, 5S and 45S rDNA arrays exhibit correlated copy number variation in lymphoblastoid cells (LCLs). Here we examined the genomic architecture and repeat content of the 5S and 45S rDNA arrays in multiple human genome assemblies (including PacBio MHAP assembly) and ascertained contacts between the rDNA arrays and the rest of the genome using Hi-C datasets from two human cell lines (erythroleukemia K562 and lymphoblastoid cells). Our analyses revealed that 5S and 45S arrays each have thousands of contacts in the folded genome, with rDNA-associated regions and genes dispersed across all chromosomes. The rDNA contact map displayed conserved and disparate features between two cell lines, and pointed to specific chromosomes, genomic regions, and genes with evidence of spatial proximity to the rDNA arrays; the data also showed a lack of direct physical interaction between the 5S and 45S rDNA arrays. Finally, the analysis identified an intriguing organization in the 5S array with Alu and 5S elements adjacent to one another and organized in opposite orientation along the array. We conclude that portraits of genome folding centered on the ribosomal DNA array could help understand the emergence of concerted variation, the control of 5S and 45S expression, as well as provide insights into an organelle that contributes to the spatial localization of human chromosomes during interphase.© The Author(s) 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.
Journal: Genome biology and evolution