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Development. 1998 Oct;125(20):4007-17.

Atm deficiency results in severe meiotic disruption as early as leptonema of prophase I.

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Genetic Disease Research Branch, Genome Technology Branch and Molecular Genetics and Biology Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Infertility is a common feature of the human disorder ataxia-telangiectasia and Atm-deficient mice are completely infertile. To gain further insight into the role of ATM in meiosis, we examined meiotic cells in Atm-deficient mice during development. Spermatocyte degeneration begins between postnatal days 8 and 16.5, soon after entry into prophase I of meiosis, while oocytes degenerate late in embryogenesis prior to dictyate arrest. Using electron microscopy and immunolocalization of meiotic proteins in mutant adult spermatocytes, we found that male and female gametogenesis is severely disrupted in Atm-deficient mice as early as leptonema of prophase I, resulting in apoptotic degeneration. A small number of mutant cells progress into later stages of meiosis, but no cells proceed beyond prophase I. ATR, a protein related to ATM, DMC1, a RAD51 family member, and RAD51 are mislocalized to chromatin and have reduced localization to developing synaptonemal complexes in spermatocytes from Atm-deficient mice, suggesting dysregulation of the orderly progression of meiotic events. ATM protein is normally present at high levels primarily in ova cytoplasm of developing ovarian follicles, and in the nucleus of spermatogonia and to a lesser extent in spermatoctyes, but without localization to the synaptonemal complex. We propose a model in which ATM acts to monitor meiosis by participation in the regulation or surveillance of meiotic progression, similar to its role as a monitor of mitotic cell cycle progression.

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