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Dev Suppl. 1990:29-34.

Heterochromatization and euchromatization of whole genomes in scale insects (Coccoidea: Homoptera).

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Rochester, NY 14627.


In several families of scale insects (coccids), the sex of an embryo is determined by the number of genetically active genomes present (one = males, two = females). In mealybugs (Pseudococcidae), both males and females develop from fertilized eggs but, in the embryos that develop into males, the set of chromosomes (genome) of paternal origin (PG) becomes heterochromatic (H) and genetically inactive and is not transmitted to the offspring. The mechanism that reduces the number of active genomes in male embryos may vary between families and even between congeneric species. Thus, in male embryos of most armored scale species (Diaspididae), the PG is eliminated, while in a few species it becomes H. In two genera of soft scales (Coccidae), males develop from unfertilized eggs when one of two identical genomes of maternal origin becomes H. In most male tissues, one genome remains H. However, in several tissues that become polyploid by endoreduplication, the PG becomes E and genetically active. The tissues in which the PG becomes E often vary between species and the analysis of hybrid males demonstrated that whether the PG becomes H or remains E is determined by the genome of maternal origin. The euchromatization of the PG in the haploid sector of mosaic male embryos and the presence of spermatocytes with two E genomes (instead of one E and one H), following the irradiation of young mealybug males, strongly suggest that the maintenance of the H state requires the presence of a genetically active genome.

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