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Glaser-Schmitt, Amanda; Zecic, Aleksandra and Parsch, John (2018): Gene Regulatory Variation in Drosophila melanogaster Renal Tissue. In: Genetics, Vol. 210, No. 1: pp. 287-301

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Genetic variation influencing levels of gene expression is abundant in natural populations, and may exert its effects through complex mechanisms that depend on an organism's genetic background and the tissue in which expression is measured. We investigated natural variation in gene expression in the Malpighian tubules of three inbred Drosophila melanogaster strains and their F-1 hybrids. One of the strains was from a population in the species' ancestral range (Zambia), while the other two were from a more recently derived population (Sweden). Although closely related, the two Swedish strains differed greatly in terms of their expression inheritance when hybridized with the Zambian strain, with one Swedish strain showing a large excess of genes with recessive expression inheritance, as well as a large number of genes with overdominant inheritance. Although most expression variation could be attributed to trans-regulation, there were similar to 200 genes that showed allele-specific expression differences in each of the between-population hybrids, indicating that cis-regulation contributes as well. The cis-regulated genes were enriched with cytochrome P450 genes, and the upstream regions of six of these genes were incorporated into transgenic reporter gene constructs to test their effects on expression. Differential expression was observed for five of the six reporter genes in the Malpighian tubule, suggesting that a large proportion of cis-regulatory variation lies directly upstream of the affected gene. In most cases, the differential expression was specific to the Malpighian tubule or greater in this tissue than in the rest of the body, highlighting the importance of single-tissue studies of gene expression variation.

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