Recent discoveries have identified the small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) as the potential 'missing link' that could explain how the synaptonemal complex (SC) is formed during meiosis. The SC is important for a variety of chromosome interactions during meiosis and appears ladder-like. It is formed when 'axes' of the two homologous chromosomes become connected by the deposition of transverse filaments, forming the steps of the ladder. Although several components of axial and transverse elements have been identified, how the two are connected to form the SC has remained an enigma. Recent discoveries suggest that SUMO modification underlies protein-protein interactions within the SC of budding yeast. The versatility of SUMO in regulating protein-protein interactions adds an exciting new dimension to our understanding of the SC and suggests that SCs are not homogenous structures throughout the nucleus. We propose that this heterogeneity may allow differential regulation of chromosome structure and function.
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