Thoracic underreplication in Drosophila species estimates a minimum genome size and the dynamics of added DNA.
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Many cells in the thorax of Drosophila were found to stall during replication, a phenomenon known as underreplication. Unlike underreplication in nuclei of salivary and follicle cells, this stall occurs with less than one complete round of replication. This stall point allows precise estimations of early-replicating euchromatin and late-replicating heterochromatin regions, providing a powerful tool to investigate the dynamics of structural change across the genome. We measure underreplication in 132 species across the Drosophila genus and leverage these data to propose a model for estimating the rate at which additional DNA is accumulated as heterochromatin and euchromatin and also predict the minimum genome size for Drosophila. According to comparative phylogenetic approaches, the rates of change of heterochromatin differ strikingly between Drosophila subgenera. Although these subgenera differ in karyotype, there were no differences by chromosome number, suggesting other structural changes may influence accumulation of heterochromatin. Measurements were taken for both sexes, allowing the visualization of genome size and heterochromatin changes for the hypothetical path of XY sex chromosome differentiation. Additionally, the model presented here estimates a minimum genome size in Sophophora remarkably close to the smallest insect genome measured to date, in a species over 200 million years diverged from Drosophila.