Extrachromosomal circular DNA in eukaryotes: Possible involvement in the plasticity of tandem repeats

S. Cohen, D. Segal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Extrachromosomal circular DNA (eccDNA) is ubiquitous in eukaryotic organisms, and has been noted for more than 3 decades. eccDNA occurs in normal tissues and in cultured cells, is heterogeneous in size, consists of chromosomal sequences and reflects plasticity of the genome. Two-dimensional (2D) gel electrophoresis has been adapted for the detection and characterization of eccDNA. It shows that most eccDNA consists of chromosomal tandem repeats, both coding genes and satellite DNA and is organized as circular multimers of the repeating sequence. 2D gels were unable to detect dispersed repeats within the population of eccDNA. eccDNA, organized as circular multimers, can be formed de novo in Xenopus egg extracts, in the absence of DNA replication. These findings support a mechanism for the formation of eccDNA that involves intra-chromosomal homologous recombination between tandem repeats and looping-out. Furthermore, eccDNA appears to undergo extrachromosomal replication via a rolling circle mechanism. Hence, the formation of eccDNA from arrays of tandem repeats may cause deletions, and the possible re-integration of rolling-circle replication products could expand these arrays. This review summarizes recent experimental data which characterizes eccDNA in several organisms using 2D gel electrophoresis, and discusses its possible implications on the dynamics of chromosomal tandem repeats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-338
Number of pages12
JournalCytogenetic and Genome Research
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 2009


  • 2D gel electrophoresis
  • Extrachromosomal circular DNA (eccDNA)
  • Plasticity
  • Replication
  • Tandem repeats


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