The emerging sequence of the heterochromatic portion of the Drosophila melanogaster genome, with the most recent update of euchromatic sequence, gives the first genome-wide view of the chromosomal distribution of the telomeric retrotransposons, HeT-A, TART, and Tahre. As expected, these elements are entirely excluded from euchromatin, although sequence fragments of HeT-A and TART 3 untranslated regions are found in nontelomeric heterochromatin on the Y chromosome. The proximal ends of HeT-A/TART arrays appear to be a transition zone because only here do other transposable elements mix in the array. The sharp distinction between the distribution of telomeric elements and that of other transposable elements suggests that chromatin structure is important in telomere element localization. Measurements reported here show (1) D. melanogaster telomeres are very long, in the size range reported for inbred mouse strains (averaging 46 kb per chromosome end in Drosophila stock 2057). As in organisms with telomerase, their length varies depending on genotype. There is also slight under-replication in polytene nuclei. (2) Surprisingly, the relationship between the number of HeT-A and TART elements is not stochastic but is strongly correlated across stocks, supporting the idea that the two elements are interdependent. Although currently assembled portions of the HeT-A/TART arrays are from the most-proximal part of long arrays, approximately 61% of the total HeT-A sequence in these regions consists of intact, potentially active elements with little evidence of sequence decay, making it likely that the content of the telomere arrays turns over more extensively than has been thought.
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