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Int Rev Cytol. 1996;165:53-119.

Polytene chromosomes in mammalian cells.

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Laboratory of Cell Morphology, Institute of Cytology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg.


This article deals with the structural and functional organization of polytene chromosomes in mammals. Based on cytophotometric, autoradiographic, and electron microscopic data, the authors put forward a concept of nonclassic polytene chromosomes, with special reference to polytene chromosomes in the mammalian placenta. In cells with nonclassic polytene chromosomes, two phases of the polytene nucleus cycle are described, such as the endointerphase (S phase) and endoprophase (G phase). The authors generalize that the main feature of nonclassic polytene chromosomes is that forces binding the sister chromatids are much weaker than in the Diptera classic polytene chromosomes. This concept is confirmed by comparative studies of human, mink, and fox polytene chromosomes. The final step of the trophoblast giant cell differentiation is characterized by a transition from polyteny to polyploidy, with subsequent fragmentation of the highly polyploid nucleus into fragments of low ploidy. Similarities and dissimilarities of pathways of formation and rearrangement of nonclassic polytene chromosomes in mammals, insects, plants, and protozoans are compared. The authors discuss the significance of polyteny as one of the intrinsic conditions for performance of the fixed genetic program of trophoblast giant cell development, a program that provides for the possibility of a long coexistence between maternal and fetal allogenic organisms during pregnancy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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