A century of genetic studies of the meiotic process in Drosophila melanogaster females has been greatly augmented by both modern molecular biology and major advances in cytology. These approaches, and the findings they have allowed, are the subject of this review. Specifically, these efforts have revealed that meiotic pairing in Drosophila females is not an extension of somatic pairing, but rather occurs by a poorly understood process during premeiotic mitoses. This process of meiotic pairing requires the function of several components of the synaptonemal complex (SC). When fully assembled, the SC also plays a critical role in maintaining homolog synapsis and in facilitating the maturation of double-strand breaks (DSBs) into mature crossover (CO) events. Considerable progress has been made in elucidating not only the structure, function, and assembly of the SC, but also the proteins that facilitate the formation and repair of DSBs into both COs and noncrossovers (NCOs). The events that control the decision to mature a DSB as either a CO or an NCO, as well as determining which of the two CO pathways (class I or class II) might be employed, are also being characterized by genetic and genomic approaches. These advances allow a reconsideration of meiotic phenomena such as interference and the centromere effect, which were previously described only by genetic studies. In delineating the mechanisms by which the oocyte controls the number and position of COs, it becomes possible to understand the role of CO position in ensuring the proper orientation of homologs on the first meiotic spindle. Studies of bivalent orientation have occurred in the context of numerous investigations into the assembly, structure, and function of the first meiotic spindle. Additionally, studies have examined the mechanisms ensuring the segregation of chromosomes that have failed to undergo crossing over.
Keywords: FlyBook; chromosome segregation; cohesion; crossing over; double-strand break; meiosis; meiotic recombination; spindle assembly; synapsis; synaptonemal complex.
Copyright © 2018 by the Genetics Society of America.