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Genetics. 1994 Mar;136(3):1025-38.

Unusual properties of regulatory DNA from the Drosophila engrailed gene: three "pairing-sensitive" sites within a 1.6-kb region.

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  • 1Laboratory of Developmental Biology, Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


We have previously shown that a 2-kb fragment of engrailed DNA can suppress expression of a linked marker gene, white, in the P element vector CaSpeR. This suppression is dependent on the presence of two copies of engrailed DNA-containing P elements (P[en]) in proximity in the Drosophila genome (either in cis or in trans). In this study, the 2-kb fragment was dissected and found to contain three fragments of DNA which could mediate white suppression [called "pairing-sensitive sites" (PS)]. A PS site was also identified in regulatory DNA from the Drosophila escargot gene. The eye colors of six different P[en] insertions in the escargot gene suggest an interaction between P[en]-encoded and genome-encoded PS sites. I hypothesize that white gene expression from P[en] is repressed by the formation of a protein complex which is initiated at the engrailed PS sites and also requires interactions with flanking genomic DNA. Genes were sought which influence the function of PS sites. Mutations in some Polycomb and trithorax group genes were found to affect the eye color from some P[en] insertion sites. However, different mutations affected expression from different P[en] insertion sites and no one mutation was found to affect expression from all P[en] insertion sites examined. These results suggest that white expression from P[en] is not directly regulated by members of the Polycomb and trithorax group genes, but in some cases can be influenced by them. I propose that engrailed PS sites normally act to promote interactions between distantly located engrailed regulatory sites and the engrailed promoter.

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