Transvection effects in Drosophila

Annu Rev Genet. 2002;36:521-56. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genet.36.060402.100441. Epub 2002 Jun 11.


An unusual feature of the Diptera is that homologous chromosomes are intimately synapsed in somatic cells. At a number of loci in Drosophila, this pairing can significantly influence gene expression. Such influences were first detected within the bithorax complex (BX-C) by E.B. Lewis, who coined the term transvection to describe them. Most cases of transvection involve the action of enhancers in trans. At several loci deletion of the promoter greatly increases this action in trans, suggesting that enhancers are normally tethered in cis by the promoter region. Transvection can also occur by the action of silencers in trans or by the spreading of position effect variegation from rearrangements having heterochromatic breakpoints to paired unrearranged chromosomes. Although not demonstrated, other cases of transvection may involve the production of joint RNAs by trans-splicing. Several cases of transvection require Zeste, a DNA-binding protein that is thought to facilitate homolog interactions by self-aggregation. Genes showing transvection can differ greatly in their response to pairing disruption. In several cases, transvection appears to require intimate synapsis of homologs. However, in at least one case (transvection of the iab-5,6,7 region of the BX-C), transvection is independent of synapsis within and surrounding the interacting gene. The latter example suggests that transvection could well occur in organisms that lack somatic pairing. In support of this, transvection-like phenomena have been described in a number of different organisms, including plants, fungi, and mammals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic