One equals two!
While this simple statement gets most people shaking their heads in disbelief, we geneticists get all excited. It is about dosage compensation – intricate genetic programs that ensure an equal gene dose from different numbers of chromosomes.
Why is that important? Most higher eukaryotes reproduce sexually, allowing them to combine alleles from two different individuals thus increasing variability in the offspring and resulting in the cleansing of harmful mutations from a population. Sexual reproduction usually requires animals of two different sexes: males and females. Although numerous exceptions exist, the two sexes typically differ in the number of X chromosomes. However, it is critical for survival that the genetic output from different numbers of X chromosomes is matched. This poses a big challenge to gene expression. In nature several different strategies have been invented to achieve a comparable gene dose in the two different sexes by either reducing the genetic output from two X chromosomes or by boosting transcription of the single X chromosome.
Drosophila melanogaster has long served as a genetic model system to study dosage compensation in molecular detail. Female flies carry two X chromosomes (XX) and males one (XY). Dosage compensation is achieved by hypertranscription of the single, male X chromosome, essentially doubling its output. But how is this achieved on a molecular level?
On May 23rd, Peter Becker from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich will talk about how flies assemble a remarkable regulator to boost transcription of the single male X chromosome. Join us at 5p.m. in H53 for exciting science!