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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Autosomal mutations affecting Y chromosome loops in Drosophila melanogaster

Francesca Ceprani, Grazia D Raffa, Romano Petrucci and Roberto Piergentili*

Author Affiliations

Dipartimento di Genetica e Biologia Molecolare, Sapienza – Università di Roma, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Rome, Italy

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BMC Genetics 2008, 9:32  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-9-32

Published: 11 April 2008

Abstract

Background

The Y chromosome of Drosophila melanogaster harbors several genes required for male fertility. The genes for these fertility factors are very large in size and contain conspicuous amounts of repetitive DNA and transposons. Three of these loci (ks-1, kl-3 and kl-5) have the ability to develop giant lampbrush-like loops in primary spermatocytes, a cytological manifestation of their active state in these cells. Y-loops bind a number of non-Y encoded proteins, but the mechanisms regulating their development and their specific functions are still to be elucidated.

Results

Here we report the results of a screen of 726 male sterile lines to identify novel autosomal genes controlling Y-loop function. We analyzed mutant testis preparations both in vivo and by immunofluorescence using antibodies directed against Y-loop-associated proteins. This screen enabled us to isolate 17 mutations at 15 loci whose wild-type function is required for proper Y-loop morphogenesis. Six of these loci are likely to specifically control loop development, while the others display pleiotropic effects on both loops and meiotic processes such as spermiogenesis, sperm development and maturation. We also determined the map position of the mutations affecting exclusively Y-loop morphology.

Conclusion

Our cytological screening permitted us to identify novel genetic functions required for male spermatogenesis, some of which show pleiotropic effects. Analysis of these mutations also shows that loop development can be uncoupled from meiosis progression. These data represent a useful framework for the characterization of Y-loop development at a molecular level and for the study of the genetic control of heterochromatin.