Retrotransposable elements on the W chromosome of the silkworm, Bombyx mori

Cytogenet Genome Res. 2005;110(1-4):144-51. doi: 10.1159/000084946.


The sex chromosomes of the silkworm, Bombyxmori, are designated ZW(XY) for females and ZZ(XX) for males. The W chromosome of B. mori does not recombine with the Z chromosome and autosomes and no genes for morphological characters have been mapped to the W chromosome as yet. Furthermore, femaleness is determined by the presence of a single W chromosome, regardless of the number of autosomes or Z chromosomes. To understand these interesting features of the W chromosome, it is necessary to analyze the W chromosome at the molecular biology level. Initially to isolate DNA sequences specific for the W chromosome as randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers, we compared the genomic DNAs between males and females by PCR with arbitrary 10-mer primers. To the present, we have identified 12 W-specific RAPD markers, and with the exception of one RAPD marker, all of the deduced amino acid sequences of these W-specific RAPD markers show similarity to previously reported amino acid sequences of retrotransposable elements from various organisms. After constructing a genomic DNA lambda phage library of B. mori we obtained two lambda phage clones, one containing the W-Kabuki RAPD sequence and one containing the W-Samurai RAPD sequence and found that these DNA sequences comprised nested structures of many retrotransposable elements. To further analyze the W chromosome, we obtained 14 W-specific bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones from three BAC libraries and subjected these clones to shotgun sequencing. The resulting assembly of sequences did not produce a single contiguous sequence due to the presence of many retrotransposable elements. Therefore, we coupled PCR with shotgun sequencing. Through these analyses, we found that many long terminal repeat (LTR) and non-LTR retrotransposons, retroposons, DNA transposons and their derivatives, have accumulated on the W chromosome as strata. These results strongly indicate that retrotransposable elements are the main structural component of the W chromosome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteriophage lambda / genetics
  • Bacteriophage lambda / isolation & purification
  • Bombyx / genetics*
  • Bombyx / virology
  • Chromosome Mapping*
  • Female
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA Technique
  • Retroelements*
  • Sex Chromosomes*


  • Insect Proteins
  • Retroelements