Homologue pairing in flies and mammals: gene regulation when two are involved

Genet Res Int. 2012;2012:430587. doi: 10.1155/2012/430587. Epub 2011 Dec 22.


Chromosome pairing is usually discussed in the context of meiosis. Association of homologues in germ cells enables chromosome segregation and is necessary for fertility. A few organisms, such as flies, also pair their entire genomes in somatic cells. Most others, including mammals, display little homologue pairing outside of the germline. Experimental evidence from both flies and mammals suggests that communication between homologues contributes to normal genome regulation. This paper will contrast the role of pairing in transmitting information between homologues in flies and mammals. In mammals, somatic homologue pairing is tightly regulated, occurring at specific loci and in a developmentally regulated fashion. Inappropriate pairing, or loss of normal pairing, is associated with gene misregulation in some disease states. While homologue pairing in flies is capable of influencing gene expression, the significance of this for normal expression remains unknown. The sex chromosomes pose a particularly interesting situation, as females are able to pair X chromosomes, but males cannot. The contribution of homologue pairing to the biology of the X chromosome will also be discussed.