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Suppressor of zeste 12, a Polycomb group gene in Drosophila melanogaster; one piece in the epigenetic puzzle

by Birve, Anna

Abstract (Summary)
In multicellular organisms all cells in one individual have an identical genotype, and yet their bodies consist of many and very different tissues and thus many different cell types. Somehow there must be a difference in how genes are interpreted. So, there must be signals that tell the genes when and where to be active and inactive, respectively. In some instances a specific an expression pattern (active or inactive) is epigenetic; it is established and maintained throughout multiple rounds of cell divisions. In the developing Drosophila embryo, the proper expression pattern of e.g. the homeotic genes Abd-B and Ubx is to be kept active in the posterior part and silenced in the anterior. Properly silenced homeotic genes are crucial for the correct segmentation pattern of the fly and the Polycomb group (Pc-G) proteins are vital for maintaining this type of stable repression.As part of this thesis, Suppressor of zeste 12 (Su(z)12) is characterized as a Drosophila Pc-G gene. Mutations in the gene cause widespread misexpression of several homeotic genes in embryos and larvae. Results show that the silencing of the homeotic genes Abd-B and Ubx, probably is mediated via physical binding of SU(Z)12 to Polycomb Response Elements in the BX-C. Su(z)12 mutations are strong suppressors of position-effect-variegation and the SU(Z)12 protein binds weakly to the heterochromatic centromeric region. These results indicate that SU(Z)12 has a function in heterochromatin-mediated repression, which is an unusual feature for a Pc-G protein. The structure of the Su(z)12 gene was determined and the deduced protein contains a C2-H2 zinc finger domain, several nuclear localization signals, and a region, the VEFS box, with high homology to mammalian and plant homologues. Su(z)12 was originally isolated in a screen for modifiers of the zeste-white interaction and I present results that suggests that this effect is mediated through an interaction between Su(z)12 and zeste. I also show that Su(z)12 interact genetically with other Pc-G mutants and that the SU(Z)12 protein binds more than 100 euchromatic bands on polytene chromosomes. I also present results showing that SU(Z)12 is a subunit of two different E(Z)/ESC embryonic silencing complexes, one 1MDa and one 600 kDa complex, where the larger complex also contains PCL and RPD3. In conclusion, results presented in this thesis show that the recently identified Pc-G gene, Su(z)12, is of vital importance for correct maintenance of silencing of the developmentally important homeotic genes.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Umeå universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:MEDICINE; Dermatology and venerology,clinical genetics, internal medicine; Clinical genetics; Genetics; Drosophila melanogaster; epigenetic; homeotic genes; Polycomb group; PRE; heterochromatin; Suppressor of zeste 12; chromatin silencing; Genetik; genetik; Genetics

ISBN:91-7305-437-2

Date of Publication:01/01/2003

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