Telomeres are generally considered heterochromatic. On the basis of DNA composition, the telomeric region of Drosophila melanogaster contains two distinct subdomains: a subtelomeric region of repetitive DNA, termed TAS, and a terminal array of retrotransposons, which perform the elongation function instead of telomerase. We have identified several P-element insertions into this retrotransposon array and compared expression levels of transgenes with similar integrations into TAS and euchromatic regions. In contrast to insertions in TAS, which are silenced, reporter genes in the terminal HeT-A, TAHRE, or TART retroelements did not exhibit repressed expression in comparison with the same transgene construct in euchromatin. These data, in combination with cytological studies, provide evidence that the subtelomeric TAS region exhibits features resembling heterochromatin, while the terminal retrotransposon array exhibits euchromatic characteristics.
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