In mitotic cells, establishment of sister chromatid cohesion requires acetylation of the cohesin subunit SMC3 (acSMC3) by ESCO1 and/or ESCO2. Meiotic cohesin plays additional but poorly understood roles in the formation of chromosome axial elements (AEs) and synaptonemal complexes. Here, we show that levels of ESCO2, acSMC3, and the pro-cohesion factor sororin increase on meiotic chromosomes as homologs synapse. These proteins are less abundant on the largely unsynapsed sex chromosomes, whose sister chromatid cohesion appears weaker throughout the meiotic prophase. Using three distinct conditional Esco2 knockout mouse strains, we demonstrate that ESCO2 is essential for male gametogenesis. Partial depletion of ESCO2 in prophase I spermatocytes delays chromosome synapsis and further weakens cohesion along sex chromosomes, which show extensive separation of AEs into single chromatids. Unsynapsed regions of autosomes are associated with the sex chromatin and also display split AEs. This study provides the first evidence for a specific role of ESCO2 in mammalian meiosis, identifies a particular ESCO2 dependence of sex chromosome cohesion and suggests support of autosomal synapsis by acSMC3-stabilized cohesion.
© 2020 McNicoll et al.