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J Cell Sci. 2005 Aug 1;118(Pt 15):3233-45. Epub 2005 Jul 5.

SPO11 is required for sex-body formation, and Spo11 heterozygosity rescues the prophase arrest of Atm-/- spermatocytes.

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Genetics and Biochemistry Branch, NIDDK, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


SPO11 introduces double-strand breaks (DSBs) that trigger the phosphorylation of H2AX during meiotic prophase. In mice, SPO11 is strictly required for initiation of meiotic recombination and synapsis, yet SPO11 is still considered to be dispensable for sex-body formation in mouse spermatocytes. We provide conclusive evidence showing that functional SPO11, and consequently recombination and synapsis, are required for phosphorylation of H2AX in the X-Y chromatin and for sex-body formation in mouse spermatocytes. We investigated the role in meiosis of the three kinases [ATM (ataxia telangiectasia mutated), ATR (ataxia-telangiectasia- and Rad-3-related) and DNA-PKcs (DNA-dependent-protein-kinase catalytic subunit)] known to phosphorylate H2AX in mitotic cells. We found that DNA-PKcs can be ruled out as an essential kinase in this process, whereas ATM is strictly required for the chromatin-wide phosphorylation of H2AX occurring in leptotene spermatocytes in response to DSBs. Remarkably, we discovered that Spo11 heterozygosity can rescue the prophase-I-arrest characteristic of ATM-deficient spermatocytes. Characterization of the rescued Atm-/- Spo11+/- mutant indicates that ATM is dispensable for sex-body formation and phosphorylation of H2AX in this subnuclear domain. The co-localization of ATR, phosphorylated H2AX and the sex chromatin observed in the Atm-/- Spo11+/- mutant, along with ATR transcription kinetics during the first wave of spermatogenesis, confirm and expand recent findings indicating that ATR is the kinase involved in H2AX phosphorylation in the sex body.

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