, Volume 15, Issue 8, pp 1015-1022
Date: 17 Nov 2007

Analysis of heterochromatic epigenetic markers in the holocentric chromosomes of the aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum

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Abstract

Monomethylated-K9 H3 histones (Me9H3) and heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) are reported as heterochromatin markers in several eukaryotes possessing monocentric chromosomes. In order to confirm that these epigenetic markers are evolutionarily conserved, we sequenced the HP1 cDNA and verified the distribution of Me9H3 histones and HP1 in the holocentric chromosomes of the aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum. Sequencing indicates that A. pisum HP1 cDNA (called ApHP1) is 1623 bp long, including a 170 bp long 5′UTR and a 688 bp long 3′UTR. The ApHP1 protein consists of 254 amino acidic residues, has a predicted molecular mass of 28 kDa and a net negative charge. At the structural level, it shows an N terminal chromo domain and a chromo shadow domain at the C terminus linked by a short hinge region. At the cytogenetic level, ApHP1 is located exclusively in the heterochromatic regions of the chromosomes. The same heterochromatic regions were labelled after immuno-staining with antibodies against Me9H3 histones, confirming that Hp1 and Me9H3 co-localize at heterochromatic chromosomal areas. Surprisingly, aphid heterochromatin lacks DNA methylation and methylated cytosine residues were mainly spread at euchromatic regions. Finally, the absence of DNA methylation is observed also in aphid rDNA genes that have been repeatedly described as mosaic of methylated and unmethylated units in vertebrates.