The Polycomb (Pc) gene is required from the extended germ band stage onwards, to maintain spatially restricted patterns of homeotic gene expression. It has been thought to be involved in the ‘stable inheritance of the determined state’. In this paper, we have tested the notion that the Pc gene is required specifically during or after DNA replication to enable the stable transmission of states of gene activity. We found that arresting cell division using the string mutation or blocking DNA replication with aphidicolin failed to prevent ectopic expression of the homeotic gene Ultrabithorax in Pc mutants. Thus, even in the absence of DNA replication, Pc is required to maintain spatially restricted patterns of homeotic gene expression. The role of the Pc gene product in the stable repression of homeotic gene transcription is discussed.

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