After entering the oocyte and before the formation of the diploid zygote, the sperm nucleus is transformed into a male pronucleus, a process that involves a series of conserved steps in sexually reproducing animals. Notably, a major modification of the male gamete lies in the decondensation of the highly compact sperm chromatin. We present here the phenotype of sésame (ssm), a maternal effect mutation which affects the formation of the male pronucleus in Drosophila melanogaster. Homozygous ssm(185b) females produce haploid embryos which develop with only the maternally derived chromosomes. These haploid embryos die at the end of embryogenesis. Cytological analyses of the fertilization in eggs laid by ssm(185b) mutant females showed that both pronuclear migration and pronuclear apposition occurred normally. However, a dramatic alteration of the male pronucleus by which its chromatin failed to fully decondense was systematically observed. Consequently, the affected male pronucleus does not enter the first mitotic spindle, which is organized around only the maternally derived chromosomes. Immunodetection of lamina antigens indicates that a male pronuclear envelope is able to form around the partially decondensed paternal chromatin. This suggests that the maternally provided sésame(+) function is required for a late stage of sperm chromatin remodeling.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.