Cytoskeletal forces span the nuclear envelope to coordinate meiotic chromosome pairing and synapsis

Cell. 2009 Nov 25;139(5):907-19. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.10.039. Epub 2009 Nov 12.


During meiosis, each chromosome must pair with its unique homologous partner, a process that usually culminates with the formation of the synaptonemal complex (SC). In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, special regions on each chromosome known as pairing centers are essential for both homologous pairing and synapsis. We report that during early meiosis, pairing centers establish transient connections to the cytoplasmic microtubule network. These connections through the intact nuclear envelope require the SUN/KASH domain protein pair SUN-1 and ZYG-12. Disruption of microtubules inhibits chromosome pairing, indicating that these connections promote interhomolog interactions. Dynein activity is essential to license formation of the SC once pairing has been accomplished, most likely by overcoming a barrier imposed by the chromosome-nuclear envelope connection. Our findings thus provide insight into how homolog pairing is accomplished in meiosis and into the mechanisms regulating synapsis so that it occurs selectively between homologs. For a video summary of this article, see the PaperFlick file with the Supplemental Data available online.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Chromosome Pairing*
  • Chromosomes
  • Dyneins / metabolism
  • Meiosis*
  • Meiotic Prophase I
  • Microtubules / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Envelope / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • sun-1 protein, C elegans
  • zyg-12 protein, C elegans
  • Dyneins