A hybrid dysgenesis syndrome occurs in Drosophila virilis when males from an established laboratory strain are crossed to females obtained from the wild, causing the simultaneous mobilization of several different transposable elements. The insertion sequence responsible for the mutant phenotype of a dysgenic yellow allele has been characterized and named Penelope. In situ hybridization and Southern analyses reveal the presence of more than 30 copies of this element in the P-like parental strain, whereas Penelope is absent in all M-like strains tested. Penelope contains one 2.5-kb-long ORF that could encode products with homology to integrase and reverse transcriptase. Northern analysis and whole-mount in situ hybridization show strong induction of a 2.6-kb RNA in the ovaries of dysgenic females that is expressed at very low levels in the parental strains or in the progeny from the reciprocal cross. Injection of Penelope-containing plasmids into preblastoderm embryos of an M-like strain results in mutant progeny caused by insertion of Ulysses and perhaps other transposons, suggesting that Penelope expression might be responsible for the observed dysgenesis syndrome and the simultaneous mobilization of other transposable elements
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