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Genetics. 2004 Oct;168(2):775-83.

Meiotic chromosome synapsis in yeast can occur without spo11-induced DNA double-strand breaks.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology and Functional Genomics, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.


Proper chromosome segregation and formation of viable gametes depend on synapsis and recombination between homologous chromosomes during meiosis. Previous reports have shown that the synaptic structures, the synaptonemal complexes (SCs), do not occur in yeast cells with the SPO11 gene removed. The Spo11 enzyme makes double-strand breaks (DSBs) in the DNA and thereby initiates recombination. The view has thus developed that synapsis in yeast strictly depends on the initiation of recombination. Synapsis in some other species (Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans) is independent of recombination events, and SCs are found in spo11 mutants. This difference between species led us to reexamine spo11 deletion mutants of yeast. Using antibodies against Zip1, a SC component, we found that a small fraction (1%) of the spo11 null mutant cells can indeed form wild-type-like SCs. We further looked for synapsis in a spo11 mutant strain that accumulates pachytene cells (spo11Delta ndt80Delta), and found that the frequency of cells with apparently complete SC formation was 10%. Other phenotypic criteria, such as spore viability and homologous chromosome juxtaposition measured by FISH labeling of chromosomal markers, agree with several previous reports of the spo11 mutant. Our results demonstrate that although the Spo11-induced DSBs obviously promote synapsis in yeast, the presence of Spo11 is not an absolute requirement for synapsis.

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