X-ray diffraction recording from single axonemes of eukaryotic flagella.
The mutant nc4 allele of whirligig (3-54.4) of Drosophila melanogaster fails to complement mutations in an alpha-tubulin locus, alpha 1t, mutations in a beta-tubulin locus, B2t, or a mutation in the haywire locus. However, wrl fails to map to any of the known alpha- or beta-tubulin genes. The extragenic failure to complement could indicate that the wrl product participates in structural interactions with microtubule proteins. The whirligig locus appears to be haploinsufficient for male fertility. Both a deficiency of wrl and possible loss of function alleles obtained by reverting the failure to complement between wrlnc4 and B2tn are dominant male sterile in a genetic background wild type for tubulin. The dominant male sterility of the revertant alleles is suppressed if the flies are also heterozygous for B2tn, for a deficiency of alpha 1t, or for the haync2 allele. These results suggest that it is not the absolute level of wrl gene product but its level relative to tubulin or microtubule function that is important for normal spermatogenesis. The phenotype of homozygous wrl mutants suggests that the whirligig product plays a role in postmeiotic spermatid differentiation, possibly in organizing the microtubules of the sperm flagellar axoneme. Flies homozygous for either wrlnc4 or revertant alleles are viable and female fertile but male sterile. Premeiotic and meiotic stages of spermatogenesis appear normal. However, in post-meiotic stages, flagellar axonemes show loss of the accessory microtubule on the B-subfiber of outer doublet microtubules, outer triplet instead of outer doublet microtubules, and missing central pair microtubules.