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Transposon regulation in Drosophila: piRNA-producing P elements facilitate repression of hybrid dysgenesis by a P element that encodes a repressor polypeptide.

Authors: Michael J MJ. Simmons, Michael W MW. Thorp, Jared T JT. Buschette, Jordan R JR. Becker
Published: 08/27/2014, Molecular genetics and genomics : MGG


The transposons of Drosophila melanogaster are regulated by small RNAs that interact with the Piwi family of proteins. These piRNAs are generated from transposons inserted in special loci such as the telomere-associated sequences at the left end of the X chromosome. Drosophila's P transposons can also be regulated by a polypeptide encoded by the KP element, a 1.15-kb-long member of the P family. Using piRNA-generating telomeric P elements (TPs) and repressor-producing transgenic KP elements, we demonstrate a functional connection between these two modes of regulation. By themselves, the TPs partially repress gonadal dysgenesis, a trait caused by rampant P-element activity in the germ line. This repression is manifested as a strictly maternal effect arising from the cytoplasmic transmission of P-specific piRNAs from mother to offspring. The repression is enhanced by genetic interactions between the TPs and other, non-telomeric P elements-a phenomenon attributable to ping-pong amplification of maternal piRNAs. KP elements, like other kinds of non-telomeric P elements, enhance regulation anchored in the TPs. However, with some TPs, the enhanced regulation is manifested as a strictly zygotic effect of the KP element. This effect is seen when the TP has few sequences in common with the KP element, a condition not conducive to ping-pong amplification of piRNAs; it can be attributed to the action of the KP repressor polypeptide. Because the effect is seen only when a TP was present in the mother's genotype, maternally generated P-element piRNAs could facilitate regulation by the KP repressor polypeptide.

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