El-Sharnouby S, Redhouse J, White RA
The Drosophila spermatogenesis cell differentiation pathway involves the activation of a large set of genes in primary spermatocytes. Most of these genes are activated by testis-specific TATA-binding protein associated factors (tTAFs). In the current model for the activation mechanism, Polycomb plays a key role silencing these genes in the germline precursors, and tTAF-dependent activation in primary spermatocytes involves the displacement of Polycomb from gene promoters. We investigated the genome-wide binding of Polycomb in wild type and tTAF mutant testes. According to the model we expected to see a clear enhancement in Polycomb binding at tTAF-dependent spermatogenesis genes in tTAF mutant testes. However, we find little evidence for such an enhancement in tTAF mutant testes compared to wild type. To avoid problems arising from cellular heterogeneity in whole testis analysis, we further tested the model by analysing Polycomb binding in purified germline precursors, representing cells before tTAF-dependent gene activation. Although we find Polycomb associated with its canonical targets, we find little or no evidence of Polycomb at spermatogenesis genes. The lack of Polycomb at tTAF-dependent spermatogenesis genes in precursor cells argues against a model where Polycomb displacement is the mechanism of spermatogenesis gene activation.