Responder (Rsp) alleles in the Segregation Distorter (SD) system of meiotic drive in Drosophila may represent a complex family of satellite repeat sequences

Houtchens, KL, T. W.,  Genetica,  117:291-302. 2003.

In D. melanogaster males carrying Segregation Distorter (SD) second chromosomes, sperm receiving sensitive alleles of the Responder (Rsp) locus are subject to high rates of dysfunction. The Rsp region is located in 2R immediately adjacent to the centromere in heterochromatic band 39, and covers roughly 600 kb of material, of which approximately 85 kb is comprised of several hundred copies of a 240-bp satellite DNA sequence. Cytological observations as well as molecular analysis of rearrangements which bisect h39 indicate that sensitivity of the Rsp target to SD action is also subdivisible, and sensitivities of the component pieces appear to be correlated with copy number of the 240 bp repeat. In an attempt to examine possible higher order sequence structure for these blocks, PCR using single primers derived from a canonical repeat was used to identify potential reversals of direction of tandem arrays; that is, head-to-head or tail-to-tail junctions. Surprisingly, for two different Rsp alleles, only a single such reversal product for each was identified, differing in size and sequence between alleles. Sequencing of PCR products identified diverged copies of the canonical repeats that would not have been found using the levels of DNA stringency employed in earlier studies. Examination of Southern digests and slot-blots for DNA quantification indicates that adding the estimated numbers of such diverged copies to the canonical repeat copies discovered earlier is potentially sufficient to account for the entire 600 kb Rsp region. This adds strength to the hypothesis that this extended family of repeats is in fact the target of SD-mediated sperm dysfunction. Implications of these results for understanding the evolution of repetitive DNA are also discussed.