In the ciliate Tetrahymena, meiotic micronuclei (MICs) undergo extreme elongation, and meiotic pairing and recombination take place within these elongated nuclei (the “crescents”). We have previously shown that elongation does not occur in the absence of Spo11p-induced DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). Here we show that elongation is restored in spo11Δ mutants by various DNA-damaging agents including ones that may not cause DSBs to a notable extent. MIC elongation following Spo11p-induced DSBs or artificially induced DNA lesions is probably a DNA-damage response mediated by a phosphokinase signal transduction pathway, since it is suppressed by the ATM/ATR kinase inhibitors caffeine and wortmannin and by knocking out Tetrahymena's ATR orthologue. MIC elongation occurs concomitantly with the movement of centromeres away from the telomeric pole of the MIC. This DNA damage–dependent reorganization of the MIC helps to arrange homologous chromosomes alongside each other but is not sufficient for exact pairing. Thus, Spo11p contributes to bivalent formation in two ways: by creating a favorable spatial disposition of homologues and by stabilizing pairing by crossovers. The polarized chromosome orientation inside the crescent resembles the conserved meiotic bouquet, and crescent and bouquet also share the putative function of aiding meiotic pairing. However, they are regulated differently because in Tetrahymena, DSBs are required for entering rather than exiting this stage
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