Variation in Position Effect Variegation Within a Natural Population

Genetics. 2017 Nov;207(3):1157-1166. doi: 10.1534/genetics.117.300306. Epub 2017 Sep 20.


Changes in chromatin state may drive changes in gene expression, and it is of growing interest to understand the population genetic forces that drive differences in chromatin state. Here, we use the phenomenon of position effect variegation (PEV), a well-studied proxy for chromatin state, to survey variation in PEV among a naturally derived population. Further, we explore the genetic architecture of natural variation in factors that modify PEV. While previous mutation screens have identified over 150 suppressors and enhancers of PEV, it remains unknown to what extent allelic variation in these modifiers mediate interindividual variation in PEV. Is natural variation in PEV mediated by segregating genetic variation in known Su(var) and E(var) genes, or is the trait polygenic, with many variants mapping elsewhere in the genome? We designed a dominant mapping study that directly answers this question and suggests that the bulk of the variance in PEV does not map to genes with prior annotated impact to PEV. Instead, we find enrichment of top P-value ranked associations that suggest impact to active promoter and transcription start site proximal regions. This work highlights extensive variation in PEV within a population, and provides a quantitative view of the role naturally segregating autosomal variants play in modifying PEV-a phenomenon that continues to shape our understanding of chromatin state and epigenetics.

Keywords: Position Effect Variegation (PEV); chromatin; enhancer of variegation; natural variation; phenotypic variance; suppressor of variegation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromosomal Position Effects*
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Female
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Male
  • Phenotype


  • Chromatin