The Nature, Extent, and Consequences of Cryptic Genetic Variation in the opa Repeats of Notch in Drosophila

The Nature, Extent, and Consequences of Cryptic Genetic Variation in the opa Repeats of Notch in DrosophilaClinton Rice, Daniel Beekman, Liping Liu, Albert Erives
Polyglutamine (pQ) tracts are abundant in many proteins co-interacting on DNA. The lengths of these pQ tracts can modulate their interaction strengths. However, pQ tracts > 40 residues are pathologically prone to amyloidogenic self-assembly. Here, we assess the extent and consequences of variation in the pQ-encoding opa repeats of Notch (N) in Drosophila melanogaster. We use Sanger sequencing to genotype opa sequences (50-CAX repeats), which have resisted assembly using short sequence reads. While the majority of N sequences pertain to reference opa31 (Q13HQ17) and opa32 (Q13HQ18) allelic classes, several rare alleles encode tracts > 32 residues: opa33a (Q14HQ18), opa33b (Q15HQ17), opa34 (Q16HQ17), opa35a1/opa35a2 (Q13HQ21), opa36 (Q13HQ22), and opa37 (Q13HQ23). Only one rare allele encodes a tract < 31 residues: opa23 (Q13?Q10). This opa23 allele shortens the pQ tract while simultaneously eliminating the interrupting histidine. Homozygotes for the short and long opa alleles have defects in sensory bristle organ specification, abdominal patterning, and embryonic survival. Inbred stocks with wild-type opa31 alleles become more viable when outbred, while an inbred stock with the longer opa35 becomes less viable after outcrossing to different backgrounds. In contrast, an inbred stock with the short opa23 allele is semi-viable in both inbred and outbred genetic backgrounds. This opa23 Notch allele also produces notched wings when recombined out of the X chromosome. Importantly, w[apricot]-linked X balancers carry the N allele opa33b and suppress AS-C insufficiency caused by the sc8 inversion. Our results demonstrate significant cryptic variation and epistatic sensitivity for the N locus, and the need for long read genotyping of key repeat variables underlying gene regulatory networks.

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