Modeling meiotic chromosome pairing: nuclear envelope attachment, telomere-led active random motion, and anomalous diffusion

Phys Biol. 2016 Apr 5;13(2):026003. doi: 10.1088/1478-3975/13/2/026003.


The recognition and pairing of homologous chromosomes during meiosis is a complex physical and molecular process involving a combination of polymer dynamics and molecular recognition events. Two highly conserved features of meiotic chromosome behavior are the attachment of telomeres to the nuclear envelope and the active random motion of telomeres driven by their interaction with cytoskeletal motor proteins. Both of these features have been proposed to facilitate the process of homolog pairing, but exactly what role these features play in meiosis remains poorly understood. Here we investigate the roles of active motion and nuclear envelope tethering using a Brownian dynamics simulation in which meiotic chromosomes are represented by a Rouse polymer model subjected to tethering and active forces at the telomeres. We find that tethering telomeres to the nuclear envelope slows down pairing relative to the rates achieved by unattached chromosomes, but that randomly directed active forces applied to the telomeres speed up pairing dramatically in a manner that depends on the statistical properties of the telomere force fluctuations. The increased rate of initial pairing cannot be explained by stretching out of the chromosome conformation but instead seems to correlate with anomalous diffusion of sub-telomeric regions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Chromosome Pairing*
  • Chromosomes / metabolism
  • Diffusion
  • Humans
  • Meiosis*
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Motion
  • Nuclear Envelope / metabolism*
  • Telomere / metabolism*


  • Chromatin