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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31485. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031485. Epub 2012 Feb 15.

Human male meiotic sex chromosome inactivation.

Author information

1
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Abstract

In mammalian male gametogenesis the sex chromosomes are distinctive in both gene activity and epigenetic strategy. At first meiotic prophase the heteromorphic X and Y chromosomes are placed in a separate chromatin domain called the XY body. In this process, X,Y chromatin becomes highly phosphorylated at S139 of H2AX leading to the repression of gonosomal genes, a process known as meiotic sex chromosome inactivation (MSCI), which has been studied best in mice. Post-meiotically this repression is largely maintained. Disturbance of MSCI in mice leads to harmful X,Y gene expression, eventuating in spermatocyte death and sperm heterogeneity. Sperm heterogeneity is a characteristic of the human male. For this reason we were interested in the efficiency of MSCI in human primary spermatocytes. We investigated MSCI in pachytene spermatocytes of seven probands: four infertile men and three fertile controls, using direct and indirect in situ methods. A considerable degree of variation in the degree of MSCI was detected, both between and within probands. Moreover, in post-meiotic stages this variation was observed as well, indicating survival of spermatocytes with incompletely inactivated sex chromosomes. Furthermore, we investigated the presence of H3K9me3 posttranslational modifications on the X and Y chromatin. Contrary to constitutive centromeric heterochromatin, this heterochromatin marker did not specifically accumulate on the XY body, with the exception of the heterochromatic part of the Y chromosome. This may reflect the lower degree of MSCI in man compared to mouse. These results point at relaxation of MSCI, which can be explained by genetic changes in sex chromosome composition during evolution and candidates as a mechanism behind human sperm heterogeneity.

PMID:
22355370
PMCID:
PMC3280304
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0031485
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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