Interspecific comparison of the transformer gene of Drosophila reveals an unusually high degree of evolutionary divergence

M. T. O'Neil, J. M. Belote

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

116 Scopus citations

Abstract

The transformer (tra) gene of Drosophila melanogaster occupies an intermediate position in the regulatory pathway controlling all aspects of somatic sexual differentiation. The female-specific expression of this gene's function is regulated by the Sex lethal (Sxl) gene, through a mechanism involving sex-specific alternative splicing of tra pre-mRNA. The tra gene encodes a protein that is thought to act in conjunction with the transformer- 2 (tra-2) gene product to control the sex-specific processing of doublesex (dsx) pre-mRNA. The bifunctional dsx gene carries out opposite functions in the two sexes, repressing female differentiation in males and repressing male differentiation in females. Here we report the results from an evolutionary approach to investigate tra regulation and function, by isolating the tra- homologous genes from selected Drosophila species, and then using the interspecific DNA sequence comparisons to help identify regions of functional significance. The tra-homologous genes from two Sophophoran subgenus species, Drosophila simulans and Drosophila erecta, and two Drosophila subgenus species, Drosophila hydei and Drosophila virilis, were cloned, sequenced and compared to the D. melanogaster tra gene. This comparison reveals an unusually high degree of evolutionary divergence among the tra coding sequences. These studies also highlight a highly conserved sequence within intron one that probably defines a cis-acting regulator of the sex-specific alternative splicing event.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-128
Number of pages16
JournalGenetics
Volume131
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics

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