TitleEvolution of DNA in heterochromatin: the Drosophila melanogaster sibling species subgroup as a resource
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsLohe, AR, Roberts, PA
Type of ArticleJournal Article

The Drosophila melanogaster species subgroup is a closely-knit collection of eight sibling species whose relationships are well defined. These species are too close for most evolutionary studies of euchromatic genes but are ideal to investigate the major changes that occur to DNA in heterochromatin over short periods during evolution. For example, it is not known whether the locations of genes in heterochromatin are conserved over this time. The 18S and 28S ribosomal RNA genes can be considered as genuine heterochromatic genes. In D. melanogaster the rRNA genes are located at two sites, one each on the X and Y chromosome. In the other seven sibling species, rRNA genes are also located on the sex chromosomes but the positions often vary significantly, particularly on the Y. Furthermore, rDNA has been lost from the Y chromosome of both D. simulans and D. sechellia, presumably after separation of the line leading to present-day D. mauritiana. We conclude that changes to chromosomal position and copy number of rDNA arrays occur over much shorter evolutionary timespans than previously thought. In these respects the rDNA behaves more like the tandemly repeated satellite DNAs than euchromatic genes.

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