Mutations in the white gene of Drosophila melanogaster affecting ABC transporters that determine eye colouration

Biochim Biophys Acta. 1999 Jul 15;1419(2):173-85. doi: 10.1016/s0005-2736(99)00064-4.


The white, brown and scarlet genes of Drosophila melanogaster encode proteins which transport guanine or tryptophan (precursors of the red and brown eye colour pigments) and belong to the ABC transporter superfamily. Current models envisage that the white and brown gene products interact to form a guanine specific transporter, while white and scarlet gene products interact to form a tryptophan transporter. In this study, we report the nucleotide sequence of the coding regions of five white alleles isolated from flies with partially pigmented eyes. In all cases, single amino acid changes were identified, highlighting residues with roles in structure and/or function of the transporters. Mutations in w(cf) (G589E) and w(sat) (F590G) occur at the extracellular end of predicted transmembrane helix 5 and correlate with a major decrease in red pigments in the eyes, while brown pigments are near wild-type levels. Therefore, those residues have a more significant role in the guanine transporter than the tryptophan transporter. Mutations identified in w(crr) (H298N) and w(101) (G243S) affect amino acids which are highly conserved among the ABC transporter superfamily within the nucleotide binding domain. Both cause substantial and similar decreases of red and brown pigments indicating that both tryptophan and guanine transport are impaired. The mutation identified in w(Et87) alters an amino acid within an intracellular loop between transmembrane helices 2 and 3 of the predicted structure. Red and brown pigments are reduced to very low levels by this mutation indicating this loop region is important for the function of both guanine and tryptophan transporters.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics*
  • Alleles
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple / genetics
  • Eye Proteins / genetics*
  • Insect Proteins / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Point Mutation
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Alignment


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Eye Proteins
  • Insect Proteins
  • st protein, Drosophila
  • w protein, Drosophila