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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Analysis of the functional role of the Polycomb chromo domain in Drosophila melanogaster.

The chromo domain was identified as a homologous protein motif between Polycomb (Pc)--a member of the Pc-group genes encoding transcriptional repressors of the homeotic genes--and HP1--a heterochromatin-associated protein encoded by the suppressor of position effect variegation gene Su(var)205. Together with previous genetic studies, this molecular similarity supports the suggestion of a common mechanism used for generating heterochromatin and for repressing homeotic genes. The evolutionary conservation of the chromo domain throughout the animal and plant kingdoms implies an important functional role for this protein motif. We have used transgenic lines as well as transient expression assays employing Drosophila tissue culture cells to study the functional role of the Pc chromo domain. Wild-type Pc protein is endogenously expressed in SL2 cells and is found in large immunologically visible complexes. Mutated Pc proteins were expressed as Pc- beta-galactosidase fusion proteins, and their nuclear distribution was examined by indirect immunofluorescence in tissue culture cells and on polytene chromosomes of transgenic larvae. We show that carboxy-terminal truncations of the Pc protein do not affect chromosomal binding of the fusion protein. However, mutations affecting only the chromo domain including in vitro generated deletions, as well as point mutations, abolish chromosomal binding. Our results demonstrate for the first time that the chromo domain is important for the function of Pc and that it is absolutely required for binding of Pc protein to chromatin. Some of the nuclear patterns generated by the mutated forms of the fusion proteins suggest, furthermore, that the chromo domain could be involved in a packaging mechanism, essential for compacting chromosomal proteins within heterochromatin or heterochromatin-like complexes.[1]


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