A novel family of repetitive DNA sequences was molecularly cloned from ApaI-digested genomic DNA of two Galliformes species, Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) and guinea fowl (Numida meleagris), and characterized by chromosome in-situ hybridization and filter hybridization. Both the repeated sequence elements produced intensely painted signals on the W chromosomes, whereas they weakly hybridized to whole chromosomal regions as interspersed-type repetitive sequences. The repeated elements of the two species had high similarity of nucleotide sequences, and cross-hybridized to chromosomes of two other Galliformes species, chicken (Gallus gallus) and blue-breasted quail (Coturnix chinensis). The nucleotide sequences were conserved in three other orders of Neognathous birds, the Strigiformes, Gruiformes and Falconiformes, but not in Palaeognathous birds, the Struthioniformes and Tinamiformes, indicating that the repeated sequence elements were amplified on the W chromosomes in the lineage of Neognathous birds after the common ancestor diverged into the Palaeognathae and Neognathae. They are components of the W heterochromatin in Neognathous birds, and a good molecular cytogenetic marker for estimating the phylogenetic relationships and for clarifying the origin of the sex chromosome heterochromatin and the process of sex chromosome differentiation in birds.
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