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Nat Genet. 2009 Apr;41(4):488-93. doi: 10.1038/ng.338. Epub 2009 Mar 22.

Many X-linked microRNAs escape meiotic sex chromosome inactivation.

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Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno, NV, USA.


Meiotic sex chromosome inactivation (MSCI) during spermatogenesis is characterized by transcriptional silencing of genes on both the X and Y chromosomes in mid-to-late pachytene spermatocytes. MSCI is believed to result from meiotic silencing of unpaired DNA because the X and Y chromosomes remain largely unpaired throughout first meiotic prophase. However, unlike X-chromosome inactivation in female embryonic cells, where 25-30% of X-linked structural genes have been reported to escape inactivation, previous microarray- and RT-PCR-based studies of expression of >364 X-linked mRNA-encoding genes during spermatogenesis have failed to reveal any X-linked gene that escapes the silencing effects of MSCI in primary spermatocytes. Here we show that many X-linked miRNAs are transcribed and processed in pachytene spermatocytes. This unprecedented escape from MSCI by these X-linked miRNAs suggests that they may participate in a critical function at this stage of spermatogenesis, including the possibility that they contribute to the process of MSCI itself, or that they may be essential for post-transcriptional regulation of autosomal mRNAs during the late meiotic and early postmeiotic stages of spermatogenesis.

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