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Genetics. 1995 May;140(1):219-29.

Genetic characterization of ms (3) K81, a paternal effect gene of Drosophila melanogaster.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Washington, Seattle 98195-1800, USA.


The vast majority of known male sterile mutants of Drosophila melanogaster fail to produce mature sperm or mate properly. The ms(3) K81(1) mutation is one of a rare class of male sterile mutations in which sterility is caused by developmental arrest after sperm entry into the egg. Previous studies showed that males homozygous for the K81(1) mutation produce progeny that arrest at either of two developmental stages. Most embryos arrest during early nuclear cycles, whereas the remainder are haploid embryos that arrest at a later stage. This description of the mutant phenotype was based on the analysis of a single allele isolated from a natural population. It was therefore unclear whether this unique paternal effect phenotype reflected the normal function of the gene. The genetic analysis and initial molecular characterization of five new K81 mutations are described here. Hemizygous conditions and heteroallelic combinations of the alleles were associated with male sterility caused by defects in embryogenesis. No other mutant phenotypes were observed. Thus, the K81 gene acted as a strict paternal effect gene. Moreover, the biphasic pattern of developmental arrest was common to all the alleles. These findings strongly suggested that the unusual embryonic phenotype caused by all five new alleles was due to loss of function of the K81+ gene. The K81 gene is therefore the first clear example of a strict paternal effect gene in Drosophila. Based on the embryonic lethal phenotypes, we suggest that the K81+ gene encodes a sperm-specific product that is essential for the male pronucleus to participate in the first few embryonic nuclear divisions.

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