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Nopp140, often called the nucleolar and Cajal body phosphoprotein (NOLC1), is an evolutionarily conserved chaperone for the transcription and processing of rRNA during ribosome subunit assembly. Metazoan Nopp140 contains an amino terminal LisH dimerization domain and a highly conserved carboxyl domain. A large central domain consists of alternating basic and acidic motifs of low sequence complexity. Orthologous versions of Nopp140 contain variable numbers of repeating basic-acidic units. While vertebrate Nopp140 genes use multiple exons to encode the central domain, the Nopp140 gene in Drosophila uses exclusively exon 2 to encode the central domain. Here, we define three overlapping repeat sequence patterns (P, P', and P '') within the central domain of D. melanogaster Nopp140. These repeat patterns are poorly conserved in other Drosophila species. We also describe a length polymorphism in exon 2 that pertains specifically to the P' pattern in D. melanogaster. The pattern displays either two or three 96 base pair repeats, respectively, referred to as Nopp140-Short and Nopp140-Long. Fly lines homozygous for one or the other allele, or heterozygous for both alleles, show no discernible phenotypes. PCR characterization of the long and short alleles shows a poorly defined, artifactual bias toward amplifying the long allele over the short allele. The significance of this polymorphism will be in discerning the largely unknown properties of Nopp140's large central domain in rDNA transcription and ribosome biogenesis.

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