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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Mar 3;95(5):2423-8.

Both allelic variation and expression of nuclear and cytoplasmic transcripts of Hsr-omega are closely associated with thermal phenotype in Drosophila.

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  • 1Department of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Monash University, Victoria 3168, Australia. stephen.mckechnie@sci.monash.edu.au


Inducible heat shock genes are considered a major component of the molecular mechanisms that confer cellular protection against a variety of environmental stresses, in particular high temperature extremes. We have tested the association between expression of the heat shock RNA gene hsr-omega and thermoresistance by generating thermoresistant lines of Drosophila melanogaster after application of two distinct regimes of laboratory selection. One set of lines was selected for resistance to knockdown by heat stress and the other was similarly selected but before selection a mild heat exposure known to increase resistance (heat hardening) was applied. A cross between resistant and susceptible lines confirmed our earlier observation that increased thermal tolerance cosegregates with allelic variation in the hsr-omega gene. This cosegregating variation is attributed largely to two haplotype groups. Using quantitative reverse transcription-PCR, we find evidence for divergent phenotypic responses in the two selection regimes, involving both structural and regulatory changes in hsr-omega. Lines selected after hardening showed increased levels of the cytoplasmic transcript but decreased levels of the nuclear transcript. Lines selected without hardening showed decreased levels of the cytoplasmic transcript. The allelic frequency changes at hsr-omega could not by themselves account for the altered transcription patterns. Our results support the idea that the functional RNA molecules transcribed from hsr-omega are an important and polymorphic regulatory component of an insect thermoresistance phenotype.

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