Widespread occurrence of small inversions in the chloroplast genomes of land plants

Ki Joong Kim, Hae Lim Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Citations (Scopus)


Large inversions are well characterized in the chloroplast genomes of land plants. In contrast, reports of small inversions are rare and involve limited plant groups. In this study, we report the widespread occurrence of small inversions ranging from 5 to 50 bp in fully and partially sequenced chloroplast genomes of both monocots and dicots. We found that small inversions were much more common than large inversions. The small inversions were scattered over the chloroplast genome including the IR, SSC, and LSC regions. Several small inversions were uncovered in chloroplast genomes even though they shared the same overall gene order. The majority of these small inversions were located within 100 bp downstream of the 3′ ends of genes. All had inverted repeat sequences, ranging from 11 to 24 bp, at their ends. Such small inversions form stem-loop hairpin structures that usually have the function of stabilizing the corresponding mRNA molecules. Intra-molecular recombination between the inverted sequences in the stem-forming regions are responsible for generating flip-flop orientations of the loops. The presence of two different orientations of the stem-loop in the trnL-F noncoding region of a single species of Jasminum elegans suggests that a short inversion can be generated within a short period of time. Small inversions of non-coding sequences may influence sequence alignment and character interpretation in phylogeny reconstructions, as shown in nine species of Jasminum. Many small inversions may have been generated by parallel or back mutation events during chloroplast genome evolution. Our data indicate that caution is needed when using chloroplast non-coding sequences for phylogenetic analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-113
Number of pages10
JournalMolecules and cells
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Chloroplast Genome
  • Flip-Flop Mechanism
  • Free Energy
  • Intra-molecular Recombination
  • Inverted Repeat
  • Jasminum
  • Short Inversion
  • Stem-Loop Formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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