Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology

Major Professor

Mariano Labrador

Committee Members

Bruce McKee, Ranjan Ganguly, Todd Reynolds, Albrecht von Arnim


ABSTRACT Chromatin insulators are required for proper temporal and spatial expression of genes in metazoans. Insulators are thought to play an important role in the regulation of gene expression through the formation of higher-order chromatin structures. One of the best characterized insulators is the Drosophila gypsy insulator, which is located in the gypsy retrovirus. Several proteins are required for gypsy insulator function, including Su(Hw), Mod(mdg4), and CP190. In addition to the gypsy insulator, these proteins are located throughout the genome at sites which are thought to correspond to endogenous insulators. Analysis of the distribution of insulator proteins across a region of chromosome 2R in Drosophila polytene chromosomes shows that Su(Hw) is found in three structures differentially associated with insulator proteins: bands, interbands and domains of coexpressed genes. Bands are formed by condensation of chromatin within genes containing one or more Su(Hw) binding sites, while Su(Hw) sites in interbands appear to form structures normally associated with open chromatin. Bands characterized by the lack of CP190 and BEAF-32 insulator proteins are formed by clusters of coexpressed genes, and these bands correlate with the distribution of specific chromatin marks. Conservation of the band interband pattern, as well as the distribution of insulator proteins in nurse cells, suggests that this organization may represent the basic organization of interphasic chromosomes. We also show that, in addition to the gypsy insulator, sequence analysis predicts the presence of Su(Hw) binding sites within a number of transposable elements. Su(Hw) binds to predicted sites within gtwin and jockey, which possesses enhancer-blocking activity. Su(Hw) affects the tissue-specific expression of transposable elements, although this effect is unrelated to the presence of Su(Hw) binding sites within the element or control of the elements via the piRNA pathway. Additionally, the effect of Su(Hw) on transposable element expression often differs from that of Mod(mdg4). Taken together, these results suggest that insulator proteins associate specifically with, and may help to define, various levels of chromatin organization on polytene chromosomes. Also, gypsy insulator proteins may influence the expression of transposable elements in a way that does not depend on Su(Hw) binding sites within the elements themselves.

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