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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Aug 15, 1992; 89(16): 7591–7595.

Degenerating Y chromosome of Drosophila miranda: a trap for retrotransposons.


In Drosophila miranda, the larval cuticle protein (Lcp) genes are located on the X2 and Y chromosomes, while in other Drosophila species the Lcp genes are inherited on the autosomes. We chose the D. miranda species as a model system to analyze the molecular bases of Y chromosome degeneration, a phenomenon observed in many species. DNA sequence analysis of the Y chromosomal Lcp gene locus reveals dense clustering of trapped retrotransposons. Once inserted at the Y chromosomal location they cannot easily be eliminated by unequal crossing-over, as recombination is a rare event in Drosophila males. In addition, we have uncovered an example of a completely inactive allele on the degenerating Y chromosome. The existence of such inactive Y-specific alleles was originally predicted in H. J. Muller's model for Y chromosome degeneration. We demonstrate that the Y chromosomal Lcp4 allele is no longer transcribed. From the divergence in DNA sequence organization of former homologous chromosome regions we conclude that changes in chromosome structure and destruction of genetic activity in degenerating Y chromosomes are based on one major mechanism, which operates by means of transposable elements.

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