Synaptonemal complex karyotyping in spermatocytes of the Chinese hamster (Cricetulus griseus). IV. Light and electron microscopy of synapsis and nucleolar development by silver staining

Chromosoma. 1980;76(1):1-22. doi: 10.1007/BF00292222.


Synaptonemal complexes (SCs), X and Y axes, and various nucleolar structures stain preferentially with silver in surface microspread preparations and are analyzable by both light and electron microscopy. Central elements, kinetochore region material and nuclear annuli which stain with ethanolic phosphotungstic acid are seldom visible after silver staining. SCs can be characterized by length measurements equally well in light and electron micrographs, from which stages of pachytene can also be determined by differentiation of the axes of the XY pair. By electron microscopy, the lateral elements appear as single strands at zygotene and early pachytene, then become double in a plane perpendicular to that of the SC and appear denser and thicker until late pachytene when they become progressively more attenuated and again appear single. These transitions are difficult to explain in terms of separation of associated chromatids. Identification of various silver stained bodies as nucleoli is supported by their orange-red fluorescence with acridine orange. SCs, X and Y axes and associated sex body material are, with a few exceptions, virtually indistinguishable from the background yellow-green fluorescence of the chromatin. Comet-shaped nucleolar bodies are regularly associated with five (in one animal) or six (in two animals) SCs; their positions along particular SCs identifiable by relative lengths indicate these bodies to be expressions of nucleolus organizer regions. They first appear at leptotene in association with unpaired axes and undergo progressive changes through late pachytene, at which time they redistribute their contents coincident with disappearance of the SCs. A characteristic nucleolar double dense body appears at zygotene; unlike the comet-shaped nucleoli, it is unassociated with other nuclear structures, and is assumed to arise from coalescence of previously existing smaller dense bodies. - The silver staining method described is remarkable for the speed and simplicity with which large numbers of spermatocyte nuclei are obtainable for light and electron microscopy. The fidelity of the light microscopic counterpart of the electrom microscopic image has been directly assessed at different stages of pachytene. For cytogenetic analysis, critical information often lies beyond the limits of light optical resolution; the correlated electron microscopy required for verification is easily obtained with this method.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleolus / ultrastructure*
  • Chromosomes / ultrastructure*
  • Cricetinae / genetics*
  • Cricetulus / genetics*
  • Karyotyping
  • Male
  • Meiosis*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Silver
  • Spermatocytes / ultrastructure
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Silver