The insulator protein Suppressor of Hairy-wing is an essential transcriptional repressor in the Drosophila ovary

Development. 2013 Sep;140(17):3613-23. doi: 10.1242/dev.094953. Epub 2013 Jul 24.


Suppressor of Hairy-wing [Su(Hw)] is a DNA-binding factor required for gypsy insulator function and female germline development in Drosophila. The insulator function of the gypsy retrotransposon depends on Su(Hw) binding to clustered Su(Hw) binding sites (SBSs) and recruitment of the insulator proteins Centrosomal Protein 190 kD (CP190) and Modifier of mdg4 67.2 kD (Mod67.2). By contrast, the Su(Hw) germline function involves binding to non-clustered SBSs and does not require CP190 or Mod67.2. Here, we identify Su(Hw) target genes, using genome-wide analyses in the ovary to uncover genes with an ovary-bound SBS that are misregulated upon Su(Hw) loss. Most Su(Hw) target genes demonstrate enriched expression in the wild-type CNS. Loss of Su(Hw) leads to increased expression of these CNS-enriched target genes in the ovary and other tissues, suggesting that Su(Hw) is a repressor of neural genes in non-neural tissues. Among the Su(Hw) target genes is RNA-binding protein 9 (Rbp9), a member of the ELAV/Hu gene family. Su(Hw) regulation of Rbp9 appears to be insulator independent, as Rbp9 expression is unchanged in a genetic background that compromises the functions of the CP190 and Mod67.2 insulator proteins, even though both localize to Rbp9 SBSs. Rbp9 misregulation is central to su(Hw)(-/-) sterility, as Rbp9(+/-), su(Hw)(-/-) females are fertile. Eggs produced by Rbp9(+/-), su(Hw)(-/-) females show patterning defects, revealing a somatic requirement for Su(Hw) in the ovary. Our studies demonstrate that Su(Hw) is a versatile transcriptional regulatory protein with an essential developmental function involving transcriptional repression.

Keywords: Chromatin insulator; Drosophila oogenesis; Neural gene expression; Rbp9; Su(Hw); Transcriptional regulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Drosophila / ultrastructure
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Oogenesis / genetics
  • Oogenesis / physiology*
  • Ovary / metabolism*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*


  • DNA Primers
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Rbp9 protein, Drosophila
  • Repressor Proteins
  • su(Hw) protein, Drosophila