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The genes for ribosomal RNA in diploid and polytene chromosomes of Drosophila melanogaster

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The proportion of the Drosophila genome coding for ribosomal RNA was examined in DNA from both diploid and polytene tissues of Drosophila melanogaster by rRNA-DNA hybridization. Measurements were made on larvae with one, two, three and four nucleolus organizer regions per genome. In DNA from diploid tissues the percent rDNA (coding for 28S and 18S ribosomal DNA) was found to be in proportion to the number of nucleolus organizers present. The number of rRNA genes within a nucleolus organizer therefore does not vary in response to changes in the number of nucleolus organizers. On the other hand, in DNA from cells with polytene chromosomes the percent rDNA remained at a level of about 0.1% (two to six times lower than the diploid values), regardless of either the number of nucleolus organizers per genome or whether the nucleolus organizers were carried by the X or Y chromosomes. This independence of polytene rDNA content from the number of nucleolus organizers is presumably due to the autonomous polytenization of this region of the chromosome. When the rDNA content of DNA from whole flies is examined, both the rDNA additivity of the diploid cells and the rDNA independence of polytene cells will affect the results. This is a possible explanation for the relative rDNA increase known to occur in X0 flies, but probably not for the phenomenon of rDNA magnification. — In further studies on DNA from larval diploid tissues, the following findings were made: 1) the Ybb-chromosome carries no rDNA; 2) flies carrying four nucleolus organizers do not tend to lose rDNA, even after eleven generations, and 3) the nucleolus organizer on the wild type Y chromosome may have significantly less rDNA than does that on the corresponding X chromosome.

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Spear, B.B. The genes for ribosomal RNA in diploid and polytene chromosomes of Drosophila melanogaster . Chromosoma 48, 159–179 (1974).

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  • Developmental Biology
  • Organizer Region
  • Polytene Chromosome
  • Diploid Cell
  • Nucleolus Organizer Region