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Heterochromatic Stellate Gene Cluster in Drosophila Melanogaster: Structure and Molecular Evolution

The Genetics Society of America
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  • Investigations
  • Biology


The 30-kb cluster comprising close to 20 copies of tandemly repeated Stellate genes was localized in the distal heterochromatin of the X chromosome. Of 10 sequenced genes, nine contain undamaged open reading frames with extensive similarity to protein kinase CK2 β-subunit; one gene is interrupted by an insertion. The heterochromatic array of Stellate repeats is divided into three regions by a 4.5-kb DNA segment of unknown origin and a retrotransposon insertion: the A region (~14 Stellate genes), the adjacent B region (approximately three Stellate genes), and the C region (about four Stellate genes). The sequencing of Stellate copies located along the discontinuous cluster revealed a complex pattern of diversification. The lowest level of divergence was detected in nearby Stellate repeats. The marginal copies of the A region, truncated or interrupted by an insertion, escaped homogenization and demonstrated high levels of divergence. Comparison of copies in the B and C regions, which are separated by a retrotransposon insertion, revealed a high level of diversification. These observations suggest that homogenization takes place in the Stellate cluster, but that inserted sequences may impede this process.

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