The Drosophila trithorax protein binds to specific chromosomal sites and is co-localized with Polycomb at many sites

EMBO J. 1995 May 1;14(9):2056-65.


trithorax is required to stably maintain homeotic gene expression patterns established during embryogenesis by the action of the transiently expressed products of the segmentation genes. The large trithorax proteins contain a number of highly conserved novel motifs, some of which have been hypothesized to interact directly with specific DNA sequences in their target genes. Using antibodies directed against trithorax proteins, we show that they are bound to 63 specific sites on the polytene chromosomes of the larval salivary gland. trithorax binding is detected at the sites of its known targets, the Bithorax and Antennapedia complexes, despite the transcriptionally repressed state of these loci in the salivary gland. A temperature-sensitive trithorax mutation greatly reduces the number of binding sites. Simultaneous localization of trithorax and Polycomb indicates that many of their chromosomal binding sites coincide. We localized one trithorax binding site within a portion of the large 5' regulatory region of the Ubx gene, to an interval which also contains binding sites for Polycomb group proteins. These results suggest that trithorax exerts its effects by binding directly or indirectly to specific DNA sequences in its target genes. Co-localization with Polycomb also suggests that interactions between these activators and repressors of the homeotic genes may be a significant feature of their mode of action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Chromosomes / metabolism*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / metabolism*
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, Homeobox
  • Genes, Insect
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mutation
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 1
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Pc protein, Drosophila
  • Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Trl protein, Drosophila
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 1