Repetitive arrays containing a housekeeping gene have altered polytene chromosome morphology in Drosophila

Chromosoma. 1998 May;107(2):96-104. doi: 10.1007/s004120050285.


Much of our understanding of gene and chromatin organization has been developed from observation of polytene chromosomes. We describe an experimental approach using transgenes that has allowed us to observe local changes in polytene morphology. A composite P transposon that contains a fusion between the regulatory region of Prat, a purine synthesis gene, and brown (bw), an eye pigment reporter, was transformed into the 65A10 polytene band and subjected to P-transposase mutagenesis. Arrays of up to 320 kb at 65A10 were recovered by selection for increased pigment, and pigment levels were found to be proportional to numbers of copies. In polytene chromosomes, the original transformant was found to split 65A10 into two thin bands separated by an interband. With increases in copy number, the interband became progressively denser, eventually forming a dark, amorphous, deformable structure unlike any previously reported. The persistence of Prat expression in development, together with the cytological appearance of these large arrays, suggest that the state of the Prat promoter is affecting polytene structure. Because this unique structure is distinct from bands, interbands, puffs, and the chromocenter, which comprise polytene chromosomes, we suggest that it is composed of an altered form of chromatin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosome Banding
  • Chromosomes / genetics*
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Eye Color / genetics
  • Gene Dosage
  • Genes, Insect*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics*
  • Salivary Glands / cytology
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • DNA Transposable Elements

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF017096