Divergent actions of long noncoding RNAs on X-chromosome remodelling in mammals and Drosophila achieve the same end result: dosage compensation
Organisms with heterochromatic sex chromosomes need to compensate for differences in dosages of the sex chromosome-linked genes that have somatic functions. In-depth cytological and subsequent biochemical and molecular studies on dosage compensation started with Mary F. Lyon’s proposal in early 1960s that the Barr body in female mammalian somatic cells represented one of the randomly inactivated and heterochromatinized X chromosomes. In contrast, Drosophila was soon shown to achieve dosage compensation through hypertranscription of single X in male whose chromatin remains more open. Identification of proteins that remodel chromatin either to cause one of the two X chromosomes in somatic cells of very early female mammalian embryos to become condensed and inactive or to remodel the single X in male Drosophila embryos to a more open state for hypertranscription provided important insights into the underlying cellular epigenetic processes. However, the most striking and unexpected discoveries were the identification of long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), X- inactive specific transcript (Xist) in mammals and roX1/2 in Drosophila, which were essential for achieving the contrasting chromatin organizations but leading to similar end result in terms of dosage compensation of X-linked genes in females and males. An overview of the processes of X inactivation or hyperactivation in mammals and Drosophila, respectively, and the roles played by Xist, roX1/2 and other lncRNAs in these events is presented.
Volume 100, 2021
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