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Genetics. 1989 Aug;122(4):793-800.

Position effect variegation in Drosophila melanogaster: relationship between suppression effect and the amount of Y chromosome.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Genetica e Biologia Molecolare, Universit√† di Roma, Italy.


Position effect variegation results from chromosome rearrangements which translocate euchromatic genes close to the heterochromatin. The euchromatin-heterochromatin association is responsible for the inactivation of these genes in some cell clones. In Drosophila melanogaster the Y chromosome, which is entirely heterochromatic, is known to suppress variegation of euchromatic genes. In the present work we have investigated the genetic nature of the variegation suppressing property of the D. melanogaster Y chromosome. We have determined the extent to which different cytologically characterized Y chromosome deficiencies and Y fragments suppress three V-type position effects: the Y-suppressed lethality, the white mottled and the brown dominant variegated phenotypes. We find that: (1) chromosomes which are cytologically different and yet retain similar amounts of heterochromatin are equally effective suppressors, and (2) suppression effect is positively related to the size of the Y chromosome deficiencies and fragments that we tested. It increases with increasing amounts of Y heterochromatin up to 60-80% of the entire Y, after which the effect reaches a plateau. These findings suggest suppression is a function of the amount of Y heterochromatin present in the genome and is not attributable to any discrete Y region.

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