A significant portion of a eukaryotic genome is silent (epigenetically repressed). In Drosophila melanogaster, this portion includes mainly regions of pericentric and intercalary heterochromatin and euchromatin regions subject to position-effect variegation. Detailed study of the organization of intercalary heterochromatin regions of Drosophila melanogaster polytene chromosomes started from the discovery of the SuUR gene (Suppressor of UnderReplication). The ability of the SuUR mutation to suppress underreplication in intercalary heterochromatin regions was used for molecular tagging of these regions. We showed that underreplicated intercalary heterochromatin regions contained silent unique genes and retained the features of late replication and transcriptionally inactive chromatin state in various cell types. Over 50% of these regions contain unique genes clustered on the base of coordinated expression. The origin of clusters and putative mechanisms of their gene expression are discussed. Data on the SuUR gene, its expression, and effect on polytene chromosome structure and replication are summarized.
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