Comparative studies of Drosophila Antennapedia genes.
J E Hooper, M Pérez-Alonso, J R Bermingham, M Prout, B A Rocklein, M Wagenbach, J E Edstrom, R de Frutos, M P Scott

Abstract

The Antennapedia (Antp) homeotic gene of Drosophila melanogaster controls cell fates and pattern formation in the epidermis, nervous system and mesoderm of thoracic segments. Its expression is controlled at the levels of transcription, alternative RNA splicing, polyadenylation and translation. Two nested Antp transcription units extend over 103 kb and produce sixteen different transcripts. We have compared the Antp genes of Drosophila virilis, Drosophila subobscura and D. melanogaster to determine which structural features are conserved and therefore may be important to the gene's function. The overall gene structures are similar. There are many conserved sequence blocks throughout the large introns, at least 15 kb upstream of the first promoter, and at least 3 kb downstream of the last polyadenylation site. Intron and exon sequence conservation around alternative splice sites indicates that alternative protein coding forms may also be conserved. Protein coding potential is perfectly conserved around the C-terminal homeodomain, well conserved in the N-terminal region, and more variable in the middle. The large size of the Antp gene may reflect a large number of control elements necessary for appropriate Antp protein expression. The conservation of transcript complexity suggests functional requirements for the different protein forms.