We describe the isolation of two rice chloroplast HindIII fragments (9.5 kb and 5.3 kb) each containing a gene cluster coding for the large subunit of ribulose-l,5-bisphosphate carboxylase (rbcL), β and ε subunits of ATPase (atpB and atpE), tRNAmet (trnM) and tRNAval (trnV). All five genes contained in the 9.5 kb fragment are potentially functional, whereas in the 5.3 kb fragment, rbcL is truncated and atpB is frame-shift mutated. The copy number of the 9.5 kb fragment is 10 times that of the 5.3 kb fragment, indicating that the two fragments are probably located on different chloroplast genomes and represent two different (major and minor) genomic populations. Thus, the rice chloroplast genome appears to be heterogeneous, contrary to general belief. We also describe the isolation of a rice mitochondrial HindIII fragment (6.9 kb) which contains an almost complete transferred copy of this chloroplast gene cluster. In this transferred copy, the coding sequences of rbcL, atpE and trnM contain perfectly normal reading frames, whereas atpB has become grossly defective and trnV is truncated.
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