Int. J. Dev. Biol. 53: 459 - 468 (2009)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.082647mh
© UBC Press

Non-genic transcription at the Drosophila bithorax complex – functional activity of the dark matter of the genome

Margaret C.W. Ho, Benjamin J. Schiller, Sara E. Goetz and Robert A. Drewell*

Biology Department, Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA, USA

ABSTRACT Drosophila melanogaster is a powerful model system for the study of gene regulation due to its short generation time, high fertility and the availability of various genetic tools to manipulate the genome. Investigation into the regulation of homeotic genes and their role in embryonic patterning during development was pioneered in Drosophila. Recently, the molecular mechanisms responsible for regulating gene expression in the bithorax complex have been the focus of active study. Many of these studies have pointed to the importance of cis-regulatory modules, genetic sequences that direct the temporal and spatial patterns of gene expression over large genomic distances. Additional components of the regulatory code have emerged beyond the primary DNA sequence. In particular, non-genic transcription is an important mechanism for controlling gene expression either through direct transcriptional mechanisms that mediate dynamic epigenetic control of the chromatin environment or through functional activity of the RNA products.

Keywords:

cis-regulation, RNA, transcription, chromatin, bithorax

*Corresponding author e-mail: drewell@hmc.edu