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Novartis Found Symp. 1998;214:51-61; discussion 61-6, 104-13.

Heritable chromatin states induced by the Polycomb and trithorax group genes.

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Zentrum für Molekular Biologie der Universität Heidelberg, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


In Drosophila the Polycomb group (PcG) and trithorax group (trxG) genes are required to maintain differential expression patterns of many important developmental regulatory genes. The PcG is responsible for heritable silencing throughout development. At target genes PcG response elements (PREs) attract PcG protein complexes and induce the formation of higher-order chromatin structures. We have mapped the distribution of Polycomb and other PcG members at various target genes by using an improved formaldehyde cross-linking and chromatin immunoprecipitation technique. We find that Polycomb spreads locally from PREs over several kilobases, thereby probably stabilizing the silencing complexes. Members of the trxG co-localize at PREs. GAGA factor was found to be constitutively bound to PREs independently of gene activity. PREs associated with active genes appear to have increased amounts of bound GAGA. We have developed a system capable of switching a PRE between the on/off modes. PREs and trxG-regulated elements are common chromosomal elements through which the proteins of the PcG/trxG exert their maintenance function on adjacent chromatin structures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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