A streamlined cohesin apparatus is sufficient for mitosis and meiosis in the protist Tetrahymena

Chromosoma. 2018 Dec;127(4):421-435. doi: 10.1007/s00412-018-0673-x. Epub 2018 Jun 12.


In order to understand its diverse functions, we have studied cohesin in the evolutionarily distant ciliate model organism Tetrahymena thermophila. In this binucleate cell, the heritable germline genome is maintained separately from the transcriptionally active somatic genome. In a previous study, we showed that a minimal cohesin complex in Tetrahymena consisted of homologs of Smc1, Smc3, and Rec8, which are present only in the germline nucleus, where they are needed for normal chromosome segregation as well as meiotic DNA repair. In this study, we confirm that a putative homolog of Scc3 is a member of this complex. In the absence of Scc3, Smc1 and Rec8 fail to localize to germline nuclei, Rec8 is hypo-phosphorylated, and cells show phenotypes similar to depletion of Smc1 and Rec8. We also identify a homolog of Scc2, which in other organisms is part of a heterodimeric complex (Scc2/Scc4) that helps load cohesin onto chromatin. In Tetrahymena, Scc2 interacts with Rec8 and Scc3, and its absence causes defects in mitotic and meiotic divisions. Scc2 is not required for chromosomal association of cohesin, but Rec8 is hypo-phosphorylated in its absence. Moreover, we did not identify a homolog of the cohesin loader Scc4, and no evidence was found of auxiliary factors, such as Eco1, Pds5, or WAPL. We propose that in Tetrahymena, a single, minimal cohesin complex performs all necessary functions for germline mitosis and meiosis, but is dispensable for transcription regulation and chromatin organization of the somatic genome.

Keywords: Chromosome maintenance; Cohesin; Meiosis; Mitosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / genetics
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / metabolism*
  • Chromosome Segregation
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • DNA Repair
  • Meiosis*
  • Mitosis*
  • Tetrahymena thermophila / genetics*


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Chromatin
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone
  • cohesins