A telomere is the region of DNA that marks the end of a chromosome. The protect the ends of the chromosome, and stop one chromosome from fusing with another. So finding something that looks like a telomere in the middle of a chromosome would be odd – but it happens. And no one knows exactly why.
Although interstitial occurrence of telomeric repeat motifs (ITR) has been reported in the genome of a few organisms, the striking level of polymorphism found by Rosata et al. within a single species has not been described before. Rosata and colleagues investigate whether a comparable pattern of dynamism found for another repetitive element, interstitial 45S rDNA sites, in the genus Anacyclus (Asteracea), is linked to ICT and both have the same underlying causes.
This study provides hints that ancient Robertsonian translocations or the amplification of terminal 45S rDNA sites can be involved in the patterns found for both repetitive families, although a wide survey across Asteraceae is needed for a conclusive answer.
While the regions studied are tiny, the effects could be big if you use ITRs to examine plant evolution. The authors say: “Our results suggest caution for those studies using ITRs as markers of species’ phylogenetic relationships without a thorough sampling.”