Skip to main content

Molecular cytogenetics in the study of repetitive sequences helping to understand the evolution of heterochromatin in Melipona (Hymenoptera, Meliponini)


The eukaryote genome is enriched by different types of repetitive DNA sequences and is most abundant in heterochromatin regions. Historically, no function has been assigned to these sequences, which makes them the target of studies that have demonstrated their structural and functional importance in the genome. Despite having a constant chromosome number, the genus Melipona has species with wide variation in heterochromatin content, from 8 to 73%, which is an important feature to be investigated regarding its origin and evolution. In the present study, a repetitive DNA sequence of Melipona mondury was isolated by restriction enzyme digestion. This sequence was used to hybridize chromosomes of eight Melipona species that include representatives of the four subgenera and present divergent characteristics in relation to the heterochromatin content. Considering that rDNA localization has shown differences in Melipona, 16 species of this genus were analyzed with 18S rDNA probe. Our data suggest that heterochromatin growth occurred independently in the Michmelia and Melikerria subgenera, considering that the isolated repetitive DNA sequence was shared only by the Michmelia species. Amplification possibly occurred from the centromeric region, causing the displacement of the rDNA sites to the ends of the chromosomes. The repetitive DNA sequence used is a constituent of Michmelia heterochromatin, which that arose from the common ancestor of the species of this subgenus.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

Adapted from Rasmussen and Cameron (2010): gray inverted triangle: Low content; filled triangle: High content; *: There is the exception of Melipona quinquefasciata which has low content. The age estimation on the nodes are based on Rasmussen and Cameron (2010)


Download references


The authors would like to thank the “Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES)” and “Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Minas Gerais (FAPEMIG)”.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Denilce Meneses Lopes.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary Information

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary file1 (DOCX 934 KB)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Pereira, J.A., Travenzoli, N.M., de Oliveira, M.P. et al. Molecular cytogenetics in the study of repetitive sequences helping to understand the evolution of heterochromatin in Melipona (Hymenoptera, Meliponini). Genetica 149, 55–62 (2021).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Heterochromatic growth
  • Repetitive DNA
  • Restriction enzyme
  • Stingless bee