, Volume 117, Issue 2-3, pp 165-177

The Modifier of mdg4 Locus in Drosophila: Functional Complexity is Resolved by trans Splicing

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Abstract

The modifier of mdg4 (mod(mdg4)) gene of Drosophila melanogaster has been identified in many different genetic assays. It has been independently identified through mutations isolated for their effects on position effect variegation (PEV), the properties of insulator sequences, correct pathfinding of growing nerve cells, meiotic pairing of chromosomes, or apoptosis. Molecular analysis of the mod(mdg4) locus revealed that it encodes a family of at least 26 protein isoforms. Inspired by the fact that some mod(mdg4) transcripts are encoded by both antiparallel DNA strands, it was shown that mRNA trans splicing is the mechanism used by this locus to produce mature transcripts. All Mod(mdg4) protein isoforms share a common N-terminal region of 402 amino acids, which includes the conserved BTB/POZ domain. However, the isoforms differ in their C-terminal ends. Most of the C-termini contain a conserved Cys2His2 protein motif, which we have named the FLYWCH motif. Genetic and immunological data indicate that mod(mdg4) encodes a family of related chromatin proteins. Recent results indicate a functional correlation between the large number of different isoforms and the pleiotropic mutant phenotypes of most mod(mdg4) mutations. We discuss the putative function of Mod(mdg4) proteins as chromatin modulators involved in higher order chromatin domains. We also provide evidence for the evolutionary conservation of several of the isoforms and the unusual structure of the locus.