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Genetics. 1995 Feb;139(2):815-33.

Transvection in the iab-5,6,7 region of the bithorax complex of Drosophila: homology independent interactions in trans.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 63130, USA.


The Abdominal-B (Abd-B) gene of the bithorax complex (BX-C) of Drosophila controls the identities of the fifth through seventh abdominal segments and segments in the genitalia (more precisely, parasegments 10-14). Here we focus on iab-5, iab-6 and iab-7, regulatory regions of Abd-B that control expression in the fifth, sixth and seventh abdominal segments (parasegments 10-12). By analysis of partial BX-C deficiencies, we show that these regions are able to promote fifth and sixth abdominal segment identities in the absence of an Abd-B gene in cis. We establish that this ability does not result from cis-regulation of the adjacent abd-A or Ubx genes of the BX-C but rather occurs because the iab-5,6,7 region is able to interact with Abd-B in trans. We demonstrate that this interaction is proximity dependent and is, therefore, a case of what E. B. Lewis has called transvection. Interactions of this type are presumably facilitated by the synapsis of homologues that occurs in somatic cells of Dipterans. Although transvection has been detected in a number of Drosophila genes, transvection of the iab-5,6,7 region is exceptional in two ways. First, interaction in trans with Abd-B does not require that homologues share homologous sequences within, or for some distance to either side of, the BX-C. This is the first case of transvection shown to be independent of local synapsis. A second unusual feature of iab-5,6,7 transvection is that it is remarkably difficult to disrupt by heterozygosity for chromosome rearrangements. The lack of requirement for local synapsis and the tenacity of trans-interaction argue that the iab-5,6,7 region can locate and interact with Abd-B over considerable distance. This is consistent with the normal role of iab-5,6,7, which must act over some 20-60 kb to influence its regulatory target in cis at the Abd-B promoter. Evidence is presented that trans-action of iab-5,6,7 requires, and may be mediated by, the region between distal iab-7 and Abd-B. Also, we show that iab-5,6,7 transvection is independent of the allelic state of zeste, a gene that influences several other cases of transvection. The long-range nature of interactions in trans between iab-5,6,7 and Abd-B suggests that similar interactions could operate effectively in organisms lacking extensive somatic pairing. Transvection may, therefore, be of more general significance than previously suspected.

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