Meta-analysis reveals that genes regulated by the Y chromosome in Drosophila melanogaster are preferentially localized to repressive chromatin.
The Drosophila Y chromosome is a degenerated, heterochromatic chromosome with few functional genes. Despite this, natural variation on the Y chromosome in D. melanogaster has substantial trans-acting effects on the regulation of X-linked and autosomal genes. It is not clear, however, whether these genes simply represent a random subset of the genome, or whether specific functional properties are associated with susceptibility to regulation by Y-linked variation. Here, we present a meta-analysis of four previously published microarray studies of Y-linked regulatory variation (YRV) in D. melanogaster. We show that YRV genes are far from a random subset of the genome: they are more likely to be in repressive chromatin contexts, be expressed tissue specifically, and vary in expression within and between species than non-YRV genes. Furthermore, YRV genes are more likely to be associated with the nuclear lamina than non-YRV genes, and are generally more likely to be close to each other in the nucleus (although not along chromosomes). Taken together, these results suggest that variation on the Y chromosome plays a role in modifying how the genome is distributed across chromatin compartments, either via changes in the distribution of DNA binding proteins or via changes in the spatial arrangement of the genome in the nucleus.