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Genetics. 1991 Oct;129(2):481-8.

Use of in vitro mutagenesis to analyze the molecular basis of the difference in Adh expression associated with the allozyme polymorphism in Drosophila melanogaster.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27706.


In natural populations of Drosophila melanogaster, the alcohol dehydrogenase (Adh) locus is polymorphic for two allozymes, designated Slow and Fast. Fast homozygotes generally have a two- to threefold higher ADH activity level than Slow homozygotes for two reasons: they have a higher concentration of ADH protein and the Fast protein has a higher catalytic efficiency. DNA sequencing studies have shown that the two allozymes generally differ by only a single amino acid at residue 192, which must therefore be the cause of the catalytic efficiency difference. A previous P element-transformation experiment mapped the difference in ADH protein level to a 2.3-kb HpaI/ClaI restriction fragment; which contains all of the Adh coding sequences but excludes all of the 5' flanking region of the distal transcriptional unit. Here we report the results of a site-directed in vitro mutagenesis experiment designed to investigate the effects of the amino acid replacement. This replacement has the expected effect on catalytic efficiency, but there is no detectable effect on the concentration of ADH protein estimated immunologically. This result shows that the average difference in ADH protein level between the allozymic classes is due to linkage disequilibrium between the amino acid replacement and one or more other polymorphisms within the HpaI/ClaI fragment. Sequence analysis of several Fast and Slow alleles suggested that the other polymorphism might be a silent substitution at nucleotide 1443, but another in vitro mutagenesis experiment reported here shows that this is not the case. Therefore, the molecular basis of the difference in ADH protein concentration between the allozymic classes remains an open question.

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