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Chromosoma. 2019 Aug 13. doi: 10.1007/s00412-019-00722-8. [Epub ahead of print]

Activity and inactivity of moth sex chromosomes in somatic and meiotic cells.

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Institut für Biologie, Zentrum für medizinische Struktur- und Zellbiologie, Universität zu Lübeck, Ratzeburger Allee 160, 23538, Lübeck, Germany.
Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) Gatersleben, 06466, Seeland, Germany.
Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Institute of Entomology, 370 05, České Budĕjovice, Czech Republic.
Laboratory of Applied Entomology, Faculty of Agriculture, Iwate University, Morioka, 020-8550, Japan.


Moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera) are the most species-rich group of animals with female heterogamety, females mostly having a WZ, males a ZZ sex chromosome constitution. We studied chromatin conformation, activity, and inactivity of the sex chromosomes in the flour moth Ephestia kuehniella and the silkworm Bombyx mori, using immunostaining with anti-H3K9me2/3, anti-RNA polymerase II, and fluoro-uridine (FU) labelling of nascent transcripts, with conventional widefield fluorescence microscopy and 'spatial structured illumination microscopy' (3D-SIM). The Z chromosome is euchromatic in somatic cells and throughout meiosis. It is transcriptionally active in somatic cells and in the postpachaytene stage of meiosis. The W chromosome in contrast is heterochromatic in somatic cells as well as in meiotic cells at pachytene, but euchromatic and transcriptionally active like all other chromosomes at postpachytene. As the W chromosomes are apparently devoid of protein-coding genes, their transcripts must be non-coding. We found no indication of 'meiotic sex chromosome inactivation' (MSCI) in the two species.


Bombyx; Ephestia; Germline-limited activity; Heterochromatin; MSCI; Sex chromatin


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