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Chromosoma. 2011 Dec;120(6):587-98. doi: 10.1007/s00412-011-0333-x. Epub 2011 Jul 27.

Possible differences in the two Z chromosomes in male chickens and evolution of MHM sequences in Galliformes.

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Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, University of California-Los Angeles, USA.


The male hypermethylated (MHM) region of the chicken Z chromosome encodes a non-coding RNA that is expressed only in females. The MHM sequence is found only in galliform birds, and Z genes near this region show an unusual degree of dosage compensation between males and females despite the overall low level of dosage compensation in Z chromosome gene expression in birds. Here we report that the MHM locus shows a dramatic sex difference in the configuration of chromatin, open in females and condensed in males, based on DNA fluorescent in situ hybridization of an MHM probe in interphase nuclei. The demethylating agent 5-aza-cytidine causes an asymmetric effect on the two Z chromosomes of males, altering the chromatin configuration, MHM RNA expression, and H4K16Ac modification, suggesting an inequality in the methylation status and chromatin of the two Z chromosomes. We identified numerous MHM-related genomic and RNA sequences that possess a short conserved sequence common to the majority of clones, suggesting the functional importance of the MHM region. Some of the RNA sequences, which like MHM are expressed in females but not in males, are likely to be polyadenylated and have genomic intron/exon structure. The turkey, another galliform bird, has repetitive sequences in the predicted turkey MHM region, raising the question of regional dosage compensation in the turkey as in the chicken.

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