We sequenced a continuous 326-kb DNA stretch of a microscopically defined centromeric region of tomato chromosome 12. A total of 84% of the sequence (270 kb) was composed of a nested complex of repeat sequences including 27 retrotransposons, two transposable elements, three MITEs, two terminal repeat retrotransposons in miniature (TRIMs), ten unclassified repeats and three chloroplast DNA insertions. The retrotransposons were grouped into three families of Ty3-Gypsy type long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposons (PCRT1-PCRT3) and one LINE-like retrotransposon (PCRT4). High-resolution fluorescence in situ hybridization analyses on pachytene complements revealed that PCRT1a occurs on the pericentromere heterochromatin blocks. PCRT1 was the prevalent retrotransposon family occupying more than 60% of the 326-kb sequence with 19 members grouped into eight subfamilies (PCRT1-PCRT1h) based on LTR sequence. The PCRT1a subfamily is a rapidly amplified element occupying tens of megabases. The other PCRT1 subfamilies (PCRT1b-PCRT1h) were highly degenerated and interrupted by insertions of other elements. The PCRT1 family shows identity with a previously identified tomato-specific repeat TGR2 and a CENP-B like sequence. A second previously described genomic repeat, TGR3, was identified as a part of the LTR sequence of an Athila-like PCRT2 element of which four copies were found in the 326-kb stretch. A large block of trinucleotide microsatellite (CAA)n occupies the centromere and large portions of the flanking pericentromere heterochromatin blocks of chromosome 12 and most of the other chromosomes. Five putative genes in the remaining 14% of the centromere region were identified, of which one is similar to a transcription regulator (ToCPL1) and a candidate jointless-2 gene.
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