A large proportion of spontaneous mutations in Drosophila melanogaster strains of laboratory origin are associated with insertions of mobile DNA elements. As a first step toward determining whether spontaneous laboratory mutations are predictive for mutational events occurring in the wild, recessive brown (bw) eye color mutants were isolated. By inbreeding the progeny of wild-caught Drosophila melanogaster females, bw mutations were isolated from seven separate geographic sites distributed among Japan, California, Siberia and Hungary. Among a total of 14 mutations studied, no case of transposon mutagenesis was found. At least 4 mutations are associated with small deletions in the bw gene. The remainder are inseparable from wild-type bw by Southern analysis and are presumed to be basepair changes or very small indels. Although only two spontaneous bw mutants of laboratory origin have been analyzed molecularly, one is a mobile element insertion.
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