In this era of high-resolution mapping of chromosome territories, topological interactions, and chromatin states, it is increasingly appreciated that the positioning of chromosomes and their interactions within the nucleus is critical for cellular function. Due to their large size and distinctive structure, polytene chromosomes have contributed a wealth of knowledge regarding chromosome regulation. In this review, we discuss the diversity of polytene chromosomes in nature and in disease, examine the recurring structural features of polytene chromosomes in terms of what they reveal about chromosome biology, and discuss recent advances regarding how polytene chromosomes are assembled and disassembled. After over 130 years of study, these giant chromosomes are still powerful tools to understand chromosome biology.
Keywords: Endocycle; Polyploid; Polytene.