Salivary gland polytene chromosomes of Drosophila melanogaster have a reproducible set of intercalary heterochromatin (IH) sites, characterized by late DNA replication, underreplicated DNA, breaks and frequent ectopic contacts. The SuUR mutation has been shown to suppress underreplication, and wild-type SuUR protein is found at late-replicating IH sites and in pericentric heterochromatin. Here we show that the SuUR gene influences all four IH features. The SuUR mutation leads to earlier completion of DNA replication. Using transgenic strains with two, four or six additional SuUR+ doses (4-8×SuUR+) we show that wild-type SuUR is an enhancer of DNA underreplication, causing many late-replicating sites to become underreplicated. We map the underreplication sites and show that their number increases from 58 in normal strains (2×SuUR+) to 161 in 4-8×SuUR+ strains. In one of these new sites (1AB) DNA polytenization decreases from 100% in the wild type to 51%-85% in the 4×SuUR+ strain. In the 4×SuUR+ strain, 60% of the weak points coincide with the localization of Polycomb group (PcG) proteins. At the IH region 89E1-4 (the Bithorax complex), a typical underreplication site, the degree of underreplication increases with four doses of SuUR+ but the extent of the underreplicated region is the same as in wild type and corresponds to the region containing PcG binding sites. We conclude that the polytene chromosome regions known as IH are binding sites for SuUR protein and in many cases PcG silencing proteins. We propose that these stable silenced regions are late replicated and, in the presence of SuUR protein, become underreplicated.
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