Roles of rDNA spacer and transcription unit-sequences in X-Y meiotic chromosome pairing in Drosophila melanogaster males

Chromosoma. 1997 Jun;106(1):29-36. doi: 10.1007/s004120050221.


Meiotic pairing of the X and Y chromosomes in Drosophila melanogaster males is mediated by the rDNA repeats, which are present in two tandem clusters, one in the centric X heterochromatin and the other near the base of the short arm of the Y chromosome. Deletion of the X chromosomal rDNA cluster disrupts X-Y pairing and causes high frequences of X-Y nondisjunction. Pairing can be partly restored by insertions of cloned complete rRNA genes or by rDNA fragments that include the intergenic spacer (IGS) region. A 240 bp repeated sequence in the IGS was shown to be effective in promoting pairing when present at copy numbers above five. This study further defines the rDNA sequences involved in mediating pairing. Germline insertions of a P element construct containing most of the rDNA transcription unit but no promoter or IGS region were obtained. Two single-copy insertions and four two-copy insertions proved unable to stimulate X-Y disjunction when located on an rDNA-deficient X chromosome. In addition, three insertions of a P element construct consisting of the IGS and promoter regions of the rDNA were characterized molecularly. These three insertions had previously been shown to range in pairing ability from very weak to quite strong. Molecular analysis revealed that the three insertions also vary in copy number of the 240 bp IGS repeat and that these structural differences correlate with the differences in pairing ability. These data indicate that 240 bp repeats are considerably more effective than other regions of the rDNA in stimulating chromosome pairing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Genetic Variation
  • Male
  • Meiosis*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 28S
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sequence Deletion
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • X Chromosome*
  • Y Chromosome*


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 28S