In mammalian male meiosis, the heterologous X and Y chromosomes remain unsynapsed and, as a result, are subject to meiotic sex chromosome inactivation (MSCI). MSCI is required for the successful completion of spermatogenesis. Following the initiation of MSCI, the X and Y chromosomes undergo various epigenetic modifications and are transformed into a nuclear body termed the XY body. Here, we review the mechanisms underlying the initiation of two essential, sequential processes in meiotic prophase I: MSCI and XY-body formation. The initiation of MSCI is directed by the action of DNA damage response (DDR) pathways; downstream of the DDR, unique epigenetic states are established, leading to the formation of the XY body. Accumulating evidence suggests that MSCI and subsequent XY-body formation may be driven by phase separation, a physical process that governs the formation of membraneless organelles and other biomolecular condensates. Thus, here we gather literature-based evidence to explore a phase separation hypothesis for the initiation of MSCI and the formation of the XY body.
Keywords: Epigenetics; Germ cells; Germline; Liquid–liquid phase separation; Sex body; Sex chromosomes.
© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.