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Genetica. 1997;100(1-3):131-40.

Genomic distribution of the retrovirus-like element ZAM in Drosophila.

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Dipartimento di Genetica e Biologia Molecolare, Universita di Roma La Sapienza, Italy.


The mobile element ZAM, recently identified in Drosophila melanogaster, is similar in structure and coding potential to vertebrate retroviruses. In this paper, we analyze the insertional and structural polymorphism of this element and show that members of this family appear to have a long evolutionary history in the genome of Drosophila. It is present in all the species of the D. melanogaster subgroup and in more distantly related species like D. takahashii, D. ananassae, or D. virilis but in a lower copy number or with a lower homology. Two categories of strains have been previously identified in D. melanogaster: strains with a high copy number of ZAM and strains with a low copy number. Here, we show that ZAM is at least in a low copy number in each tested strain of the species analyzed. The study of ZAM's genomic distribution by FISH mapping analysis to salivary gland polytene chromosomes or on mitotic chromosomes indicates that most of the insertion sites of ZAM elements are associated with the constitutive heterochromatin regardless of the ZAM copy number. In addition, our results suggest that multiple ZAM elements are present at the insertion sites visualized by in situ experiments.

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