Modulation of transcription burst amplitude underpins dosage compensation in the Drosophila embryo

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Dosage compensation, the balancing of X-linked gene expression between sexes and to the autosomes, is critical to an organism's fitness and survival. In Drosophila, dosage compensation involves hypertranscription of the male X chromosome. Here, we use quantitative live imaging and modeling at single-cell resolution to study X chromosome dosage compensation in Drosophila. We show that the four X chromosome genes studied undergo transcriptional bursting in male and female embryos. Mechanistically, our data reveal that transcriptional upregulation of male X chromosome genes is primarily mediated by a higher RNA polymerase II initiation rate and burst amplitude across the expression domain. In contrast, burst frequency is spatially modulated in nuclei within the expression domain in response to different transcription factor concentrations to tune the transcriptional response. Together, these data show how the local and global regulation of distinct burst parameters can establish the complex transcriptional outputs underpinning developmental patterning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112382
JournalCell Reports
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2023


  • burst amplitude
  • CP: Molecular biology
  • dosage compensation
  • Drosophila embryo
  • live imaging
  • MS2
  • RNA polymerase II
  • transcriptional bursting
  • X chromosome


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