A rapidly evolving genomic toolkit for Drosophila heterochromatin


Heterochromatin is the enigmatic eukaryotic genome compartment found mostly at telomeres and centromeres. Conventional approaches to sequence assembly and genetic manipulation fail in this highly repetitive, gene-sparse, and recombinationally silent DNA. In contrast, genetic and molecular analyses of euchromatin-encoded proteins that bind, remodel, and propagate heterochromatin have revealed its vital role in numerous cellular and evolutionary processes. Utilizing the 12 sequenced Drosophila genomes, Levine et al1 took a phylogenomic approach to discover new such protein “surrogates” of heterochromatin function and evolution. This paper reported over 20 new members of what was traditionally believed to be a small and static Heterochromatin Protein 1 (HP1) gene family. The newly identified HP1 proteins are structurally diverse, lineage-restricted, and expressed primarily in the male germline. The birth and death of HP1 genes follows a “revolving door” pattern, where new HP1s appear to replace old HP1s. Here, we address alternative evolutionary models that drive this constant innovation.

 Related Article:

MT Levine, C McCoy, D Vermaak, YC Lee, MA Hiatt, FA Matsen, et al. Phylogenomic analysis reveals dynamic evolutionary history of the Drosophila heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) gene family. PLoS Genet 2012; 8: e1002729.
PMID: 22737079 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002729

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A rapidly evolving genomic toolkit for Drosophila heterochromatin