Volume 79 (2004) Issue 2 Pages 105-118
The rDNA of eukaryotic organisms is transcribed as the 40S-45S rRNA precursor, and this precursor contains the following segments: 5' – ETS – 18S rRNA – ITS 1 – 5.8S rRNA – ITS 2 – 28S rRNA – 3'. In amphibians, the nucleotide sequences of the rRNA precursor have been completely determined in only two species of Xenopus. In the other amphibian species investigated so far, only the short nucleotide sequences of some rDNA fragments have been reported. We obtained a genomic clone containing the rDNA precursor from the Japanese pond frog Rana nigromaculata and analyzed its nucleotide sequence. The cloned genomic fragment was 4,806 bp long and included the 3'-terminus of 18S rRNA, ITS 1, 5.8S rRNA, ITS 2, and a long portion of 28S rRNA. A comparison of nucleotide sequences among Rana, the two species of Xenopus, and human revealed the following: (1) The 3'-terminus of 18S rRNA and the complete 5.8S rRNA were highly conserved among these four taxa. (2) The regions corresponding to the stem and loop of the secondary structure in 28S rRNA were conserved between Xenopus and Rana, but the rate of substitutions in the loop was higher than that in the stem. Many of the human loop regions had large insertions not seen in amphibians. (3) Two ITS regions had highly diverged sequences that made it difficult to compare the sequences not only between human and frogs, but also between Xenopus and Rana. (4) The short tracts in the ITS regions were strictly conserved between the two Xenopus species, and there was a corresponding sequence for Rana. Our data on the nucleotide sequence of the rRNA precursor from the Japanese pond frog Rana nigromaculata were used to examine the potential usefulness of the rRNA genes and ITS regions for evolutionary studies on frogs, because the rRNA precursor contains both highly conserved regions and rapidly evolving regions.