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Background: Sry is a gene known to be essential for testis determination but is also transcribed in adult male tissues. The laboratory rat, Rattus norvegicus, has multiple Y chromosome copies of Sry while most mammals have only a single copy. DNA sequence comparisons with other rodents with multiple Sry copies are inconsistent in divergence patterns and functionality of the multiple copies. To address hypotheses of divergence, gene conversion and functional constraints, we sequenced Sry loci from a single R. norvegicus Y chromosome from the Spontaneously Hypertensive Rat strain (SHR) and analyzed DNA sequences for homology among copies. Next, to determine whether all copies of Sry are expressed, we developed a modification of the fluorescent marked capillary electrophoresis method to generate three different sized amplification products to identify Sry copies. We applied this fragment analysis method to both genomic DNA and cDNA prepared from mRNA from testis and adrenal gland of adult male rats. Results: Y chromosome fragments were amplified and sequenced using primers that included the entire Sry coding region and flanking sequences. The analysis of these sequences identified six Sry loci on the Y chromosome. These are paralogous copies consistent with a single phylogeny and the divergence between any two copies is less than 2%. All copies have a conserved reading frame and amino acid sequence consistent with function. Fragment analysis of genomic DNA showed close approximations of experimental with predicted values, validating the use of this method to identify proportions of each copy. Using the fragment analysis procedure with cDNA samples showed the Sry copies expressed were significantly different from the genomic distribution ( testis p < 0.001, adrenal gland p < 0.001), and the testis and adrenal copy distribution in the transcripts were also significantly different from each other ( p < 0.001). Total Sry transcript expression, analyzed by real-time PCR, showed significantly higher levels of Sry in testis than adrenal gland (p, 0.001). Conclusion: The SHR Y chromosome contains at least 6 full length copies of the Sry gene. These copies have a conserved coding region and conserved amino acid sequence. The pattern of divergence is not consistent with gene conversion as the mechanism for this conservation. Expression studies show multiple copies expressed in the adult male testis and adrenal glands, with tissue specific differences in expression patterns. Both the DNA sequence analysis and RNA transcript expression analysis are consistent with more than one copy having function and selection preventing divergence although we have no functional evidence.

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BMC Genetics




© 2007 Turner et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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