The cohesin subunit RAD21L functions in meiotic synapsis and exhibits sexual dimorphism in fertility

EMBO J. 2011 Jul 8;30(15):3091-105. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2011.222.


The cohesin complex is a ring-shaped proteinaceous structure that entraps the two sister chromatids after replication until the onset of anaphase when the ring is opened by proteolytic cleavage of its α-kleisin subunit (RAD21 at mitosis and REC8 at meiosis) by separase. RAD21L is a recently identified α-kleisin that is present from fish to mammals and biochemically interacts with the cohesin subunits SMC1, SMC3 and STAG3. RAD21L localizes along the axial elements of the synaptonemal complex of mouse meiocytes. However, its existence as a bona fide cohesin and its functional role awaits in vivo validation. Here, we show that male mice lacking RAD21L are defective in full synapsis of homologous chromosomes at meiotic prophase I, which provokes an arrest at zygotene and leads to total azoospermia and consequently infertility. In contrast, RAD21L-deficient females are fertile but develop an age-dependent sterility. Thus, our results provide in vivo evidence that RAD21L is essential for male fertility and in females for the maintenance of fertility during natural aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / deficiency
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / metabolism*
  • Chromosomes / metabolism
  • Female
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Infertility
  • Male
  • Meiosis*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Ovary / pathology
  • Protein Subunits / metabolism
  • Sex Factors
  • Testis / pathology


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone
  • Protein Subunits
  • RAD21L protein, mouse