Egg production and fertility in Drosophila depend upon the number of yolk-protein gene copies

Mol Gen Genet. 1991 Aug;228(1-2):324-7. doi: 10.1007/BF00282485.


The yolk proteins of Drosophila melanogaster comprise a family of three related yolk polypeptides each encoded by a single-copy gene. We show by genetic crosses that each gene makes an equivalent contribution to the fecundity and fertility of the female and they do not individually provide unique functions to the embryo. We show that the number of eggs laid by a female depends upon the number of genes encoding yolk polypeptides present in the genome and furthermore that the probability of an egg hatching into an adult also critically depends upon the number of yolk protein genes present in the mother. This suggests that the three yolk protein-encoding genes in Drosophila melanogaster may have arisen by duplication, then been maintained for quantitative reasons because they increased egg production and fertility, rather than each protein evolving a different function as is the case with most small gene families, such as tubulins and collagen genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Egg Proteins / genetics*
  • Female
  • Fertility / genetics*
  • Multigene Family*
  • Ovulation / genetics*


  • Egg Proteins