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Int Rev Cell Mol Biol. 2010;282:91-134. doi: 10.1016/S1937-6448(10)82002-7. Epub 2010 Jun 18.

Meiotic silencing in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Department of Biology, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, USA.


In many animals and some fungi, mechanisms have been described that target unpaired chromosomes and chromosomal regions for silencing during meiotic prophase. These phenomena, collectively called "meiotic silencing," target sex chromosomes in the heterogametic sex, for example, the X chromosome in male nematodes and the XY-body in male mice, and also target any other chromosomes that fail to synapse due to mutation or chromosomal rearrangement. Meiotic silencing phenomena are hypothesized to maintain genome integrity and perhaps function in setting up epigenetic control of embryogenesis. This review focuses on meiotic silencing in the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, including its mechanism and function(s), and its relationship to other gene silencing processes in the germ line. One hallmark of meiotic silencing in C. elegans is that unpaired/unsynapsed chromosomes and chromosomal regions become enriched for a repressive histone modification, dimethylation of histone H3 on lysine 9 (H3K9me2). Accumulation and proper targeting of H3K9me2 rely on activity of an siRNA pathway, suggesting that histone methyltransferase activity may be targeted/regulated by a small RNA-based transcriptional silencing mechanism.

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