by Alexander Woglar, Kei Yamaya, Baptiste Roelens, Alistair Boettiger, Simone Köhler, Anne M. Villeneuve
During meiosis, chromosomes adopt a specialized organization involving assembly of a cohesin-based axis along their lengths, with DNA loops emanating from this axis. We applied novel, quantitative, and widely applicable cytogenetic strategies to elucidate the molecular bases of this organization using Caenorhabditis elegans. Analyses of wild-type (WT) chromosomes and de novo circular minichromosomes revealed that meiosis-specific HORMA-domain proteins assemble into cohorts in defined numbers and co-organize the axis together with 2 functionally distinct cohesin complexes (REC-8 and COH-3/4) in defined stoichiometry. We further found that REC-8 cohesins, which load during S phase and mediate sister-chromatid cohesion, usually occur as individual complexes, supporting a model wherein sister cohesion is mediated locally by a single cohesin ring. REC-8 complexes are interspersed in an alternating pattern with cohorts of axis-organizing COH-3/4 complexes (averaging 3 per cohort), which are insufficient to confer cohesion but can bind to individual chromatids, suggesting a mechanism to enable formation of asymmetric sister-chromatid loops. Indeed, immunofluorescence fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) assays demonstrate frequent asymmetry in genomic content between the loops formed on sister chromatids. We discuss how features of chromosome axis/loop architecture inferred from our data can help to explain enigmatic, yet essential, aspects of the meiotic program.