We studied a collection of 746 chromosome rearrangements all induced by the activity of members of the P family of transposable elements in Drosophila melanogaster. The chromosomes ranged from simple inversions to complex rearrangements. The distribution of complex rearrangement classes was of the kind expected if each rearrangement came about from a single multibreak event followed by random rejoining of chromosome segments, as opposed to a series of two-break events. Most breakpoints occurred at or very near (within a few hundred nucleotide pairs) the sites of preexisting P elements, but these elements were often lost during the rearrangement event. There were also a few cases of apparent gain of P elements. In cases in which both breakpoints of an inversion retained P elements, that inversion was capable of reverting at high frequencies to the original sequence or something close to it. This reversion occurred with sufficient precision to restore the function of a gene, held-up-b, which had been mutated by the breakpoint. However, some of the reversions had acquired irregularities at the former breakpoints that were detectable either by standard cytology or by molecular methods. The revertants themselves retained the ability to undergo further rearrangements depending on the presence of P elements. We interpret these results to rule out the simplest hypotheses of rearrangement formation that involve cointegrate structures or homologous recombination. The data provide a general picture of the rearrangement process and its possible relationship to transposition.
- Received March 13, 1984.
- Accepted April 21, 1984.