LTR retrotransposons and the evolution of dosage compensation in Drosophila
Matyunina, Lilya V.
Bowen, Nathan J.
McDonald, John F.
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Background: Dosage compensation in Drosophila is the epigenetic process by which the expression of genes located on the single X-chromosome of males is elevated to equal the expression of X-linked genes in females where there are two copies of the X-chromosome. While epigenetic mechanisms are hypothesized to have evolved originally to silence transposable elements, a connection between transposable elements and the evolution of dosage compensation has yet to be demonstrated. Results: We show that transcription of the Drosophila melanogaster copia LTR (long terminal repeat) retrotransposon is significantly down regulated when in the hemizygous state. DNA digestion and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analyses demonstrate that this down regulation is associated with changes in chromatin structure mediated by the histone acetyltransferase, MOF. MOF has previously been shown to play a central role in the Drosophila dosage compensation complex by binding to the hemizygous X-chromosome in males. Conclusion: Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that MOF originally functioned to silence retrotransposons and, over evolutionary time, was co-opted to play an essential role in dosage compensation in Drosophila.