Previous evidence had shown that, when a mammalian X-chromosome is broken by a translocation, only one of the two X-chromosome segments shows cytological signs of X-inactivation in the form of late replication or Kanda staining. In the two mouse X-autosome translocations T(X;4)37H and T(X;11)38H the X-chromosome break is in the A1–A2 bands; in both, the shorter translocation product fails to exhibit Kanda staining. By in situ hybridization, the locus of ornithine carbamoyltransferase (OCT) was shown to be proximal to the breakpoint (i.e. on the short product) in T37H and distal to the breakpoint in T38H. Histochemical staining for OCT showed that in T38H the locus of OCT undergoes random inactivation, as in a chromosomally normal animal, whereas in T37H the OCT locus remains active in all cells. The interpretation is that, when a segment of X-chromosome is physically separated from the X-inactivation centre, it fails to undergo inactivation. This point is important for the understanding of the mechanism of X-inactivation, since it implies that inactivation is a positive process, brought about by some event that travels along the chromosome. It is also relevant to the interpretation of the harmful effects of X-autosome translocations and the abnormalities seen in individuals carrying such translocations.

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