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Curr Biol. 2013 Dec 2;23(23):2400-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.10.015. Epub 2013 Nov 14.

Meiotic double-strand breaks uncover and protect against mitotic errors in the C. elegans germline.

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Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


In sexually reproducing multicellular organisms, genetic information is propagated via the germline, the specialized tissue that generates haploid gametes. The C. elegans germline generates gametes in an assembly line-like process-mitotic divisions under the control of the stem cell niche produce nuclei that, upon leaving the niche, enter into meiosis and progress through meiotic prophase [1]. Here, we characterize the effects of perturbing cell division in the mitotic region of the C. elegans germline. We show that mitotic errors result in a spindle checkpoint-dependent cell-cycle delay, but defective nuclei are eventually formed and enter meiosis. These defective nuclei are eliminated by programmed cell death during meiotic prophase. The cell death-based removal of defective nuclei does not require the spindle checkpoint but instead depends on the DNA damage checkpoint. Removal of nuclei resulting from errors in mitosis also requires Spo11, the enzyme that creates double-strand breaks to initiate meiotic recombination. Consistent with this, double-strand breaks are increased in number and persist longer in germlines with mitotic defects. These findings reveal that the process of initiating meiotic recombination inherently selects against nuclei with abnormal chromosomal content generated by mitotic errors, thereby ensuring the genomic integrity of gametes.

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