High Resolution Analysis of Meiotic Chromosome Structure and Behaviour in Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.)

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Abstract

Reciprocal crossing over and independent assortment of chromosomes during meiosis generate most of the genetic variation in sexually reproducing organisms. In barley, crossovers are confined primarily to distal regions of the chromosomes, which means that a substantial proportion of the genes of this crop rarely, if ever, engage in recombination events. There is potentially much to be gained by redistributing crossovers to more proximal regions, but our ability to achieve this is dependent upon a far better understanding of meiosis in this species. This study explores the meiotic process by describing with unprecedented resolution the early behaviour of chromosomal domains, the progression of synapsis and the structure of the synaptonemal complex (SC). Using a combination of molecular cytogenetics and advanced fluorescence imaging, we show for the first time in this species that non-homologous centromeres are coupled prior to synapsis. We demonstrate that at early meiotic prophase the loading of the SC-associated structural protein ASY1, the cluster of telomeres, and distal synaptic initiation sites occupy the same polarised region of the nucleus. Through the use of advanced 3D image analysis, we show that synapsis is driven predominantly from the telomeres, and that new synaptic initiation sites arise during zygotene. In addition, we identified two different SC configurations through the use of super-resolution 3D structured illumination microscopy (3D-SIM).