Background: A critical function of telomeres is to prevent fusion of chromosome ends by the DNA repair machinery. In Drosophila somatic cells, assembly of the protecting capping complex at telomeres notably involves the recruitment of HOAP, HP1, and their recently identified partner, HipHop. We previously showed that the hiphop gene was duplicated before the radiation of the melanogaster subgroup of species, giving birth to K81, a unique paternal effect gene specifically expressed in the male germline.
Results: Here we show that K81 specifically associates with telomeres during spermiogenesis, along with HOAP and HP1, and is retained on paternal chromosomes until zygote formation. In K81 mutant testes, capping proteins are not maintained at telomeres in differentiating spermatids, resulting in the transmission of uncapped paternal chromosomes that fail to properly divide during the first zygotic mitosis. Despite the apparent similar capping roles of K81 and HipHop in their respective domain of expression, we demonstrate by in vivo reciprocal complementation analyses that they are not interchangeable. Strikingly, HipHop appeared to be unable to maintain capping proteins at telomeres during the global chromatin remodeling of spermatid nuclei.
Conclusions: Our data demonstrate that K81 is essential for the maintenance of capping proteins at telomeres in postmeiotic male germ cells. In species of the melanogaster subgroup, HipHop and K81 have not only acquired complementary expression domains, they have also functionally diverged following the gene duplication event. We propose that K81 specialized in the maintenance of telomere protection in the highly peculiar chromatin environment of differentiating male gametes.
Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.