Crossovers and double-strand DNA breaks do not occur randomly on yeast chromosomes during meiosis, but are greatly influenced by the proximity of the chromosome’s telomere, according to research in the laboratory of Whitehead Fellow Andreas Hochwagen. This work may lead to a better understanding of developmental chromosome abnormalities and birth defects.
Meiosis is a type of cell division that produces cells with only one copy of each chromosome—spores in yeast, and eggs and sperm in higher organisms.
During meiosis, chromosome pairs line up in the middle of the cell. The chromosome pairs are then pulled apart, with complete copies of all of the chromosomes ending up at opposite sides of the cell. To ensure that the chromosomes align properly in the middle of the cell, the chromosomes crossover—swap certain sections of genes. Without the crossovers, the chromosomes could misalign and both copies of a chromosome could end up in one cell. When this happens, the cells die or suffer from severe genetic problems, such as Down syndrome.
Before a crossover can occur at a given site, both strands of a chromosome’s DNA helix must be broken. About half of these double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs) are processed to form crossovers, and the rest are resealed to restore the original chromosomes. The final number of crossovers is relatively small and scientists have long wondered how cells ensure that even the smallest chromosomes undergo at least one crossover. Indeed, in almost half of Down’s Syndrome cases, chromosome 21, one of the smallest human chromosomes, failed to form a crossover in one of the parents.
In a paper published online in Current Biology on November 29, Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student Hannah Blitzblau suggests that part of the answer lies in where DSBs are formed. Blitzblau has shown that these DSBs are not scattered randomly throughout the chromosomes, but occur most frequently in a specific band near telomeres, the end caps of chromosomes. When telomeres are spliced into the central part of a chromosome, this DSB “hotspot” effect is still seen at the same distance from the new telomeres.
“This is a simple mechanism for making sure that all chromosomes, even the shortest ones, have the crossovers required for meiosis,” says Blitzbau. “If the breaks occurred randomly, the smallest chromosomes often wouldn’t have any crossovers.”
In addition, Blitzblau showed that DSBs occur at high rates around the central part of the chromosome called the centromere, It was previously thought that DSBs and crossovers rarely occurred in this region.
“This is incredibly surprising,” says Hochwagen. “The chromosomes start the crossover process in the centromeres, but divert and reseal the breaks instead.”
Some of the earlier research had been done in mutant yeast strains; the Whitehead researchers say that the current work in non-mutant yeast is a more accurate representation of normal processes.
This research will help scientists understand chromosome events leading to infertility and birth defects. In addition, although this work does not touch on why some cells divide improperly, Blitzblau and Hochwagen anticipate that the technologies developed for this study will allow researchers to identify sites that are sensitive to breaks caused by agents, such as certain cancer drugs. The investigators are adapting the methods used in yeast to map break-sensitive sites in mammalian cells.
Eric Bender | EurekAlert!
Novel carbon source sustains deep-sea microorganism communities
18.09.2018 | King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)
New insights into DNA phase separation
18.09.2018 | Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST)
Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.
"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...
A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.
Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...
Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.
An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to...
Graphene is considered a promising candidate for the nanoelectronics of the future. In theory, it should allow clock rates up to a thousand times faster than today’s silicon-based electronics. Scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE), in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P), have now shown for the first time that graphene can actually convert electronic signals with frequencies in the gigahertz range – which correspond to today’s clock rates – extremely efficiently into signals with several times higher frequency. The researchers present their results in the scientific journal “Nature”.
Graphene – an ultrathin material consisting of a single layer of interlinked carbon atoms – is considered a promising candidate for the nanoelectronics of the...
03.09.2018 | Event News
27.08.2018 | Event News
17.08.2018 | Event News
18.09.2018 | Materials Sciences
18.09.2018 | Materials Sciences
18.09.2018 | Information Technology